Monthly Archives: November, 2011

Week 46 – Winter has come

Winter is now upon us in Ottawa.  We had our first snow this week.  Just enough cause the usual first snow panic and chaos.  It’s been cold enough to stick around the last couple of days, but tomorrow it’s going to warm up again and we’ll have a reprieve for a few days.

The sneak preview of winter allowed me a chance to have my first winter run.  It was mild enough that the path along the canal remained clear.  It was a little wet with snow melt from the salt the NCC put down, but still warm enough that it hadn’t frozen to ice.  My running friends have so been proven right: the NCC does a better job at clearing the canal paths than the city does at clearing the sidewalks.

The combination of the weather and the removal of the OccupyOttawa brats from Confederation Park kept the cyclist traffic down.  I don’t have problems with sharing the trail with cyclists, per se, but the hippie college crowd has to realize their dark earth tone clothing and retro-bikes sans reflectors makes them virtually invisible at night.

Get a lamp. The life you save will be your own.

Now that they don’t have a nightly klavern to attend, the trail has been largely bike free after dark.  The difference was immediately noticeable.  There was one biker I would see every night I was on the canal during the siege of Confederation Park I would call Neon Ghost Rider.  His bike was decked out with LED Christmas lights of various colours and could be seen for miles.  No Occupy, no Neon Ghost Rider.

For readers not used to my tongue and cheek sarcasm, I didn’t have a big problem with the whole occupation of Confederation Park.  We Running Room types use that park as a start point for most of our practice runs.  We gather at the fountain, brief the runners on the night’s run and route and head out.  My group is small enough that I could take them right to the canal trail to do that. Larger clinics, not so much.

In some ways, the Occupy Movement was a step up in the usual crowd that hangs out there.   Without going into too much detail, a few weeks before the occupation my clinic was inadvertently treated to a live sex show by a couple of the city’s homeless.

It was forecasted to be cold enough Wednesday night that I packed my new winter gear, specifically the fleece-lined pants and my new coat.  Both performed excellently.  Truth be told, it was probably still too warm for them.  I decided to go light on the inner layers to compensate.

My made to measured tailored suit from Holt Renfrew arrived this week.  Since it’s about six weeks from order date to delivery, it arrived a little big.  I wrote a few weeks ago about being down to a 38.  I was measured for that suit a few weeks prior.  I almost put the whole thing off when they told me it was six weeks until delivery. It was a sale on a custom suit the weekend of my birthday. I couldn’t help it.  On the plus side, since it is a tailored suit, the additional alterations are included in the price.

I’m pretty much done buying suits.  Besides the tailored suit, I also picked up a pair of suits from Beyond the Rack.  They had Jones New York suits that are regularly $800 for less than $200.  I picked up two.  Despite the name of the brand, they’re actually made in Canada.  In fact, the one I bought at the Bay during their Bay Days sale earlier this month is now the only made in Canada suit I own.

What I really need still is casual wear.  I now have a couple of shirts and sweaters, but as we near the end of the Parliamentary sitting, I’m going to need more.  With winter upon us, clothes, particularly pants, get dirtier quicker.  Since I have to pay for laundry, a couple small loads a week will be a major hit on the pocket book.

Speaking of clothes, it’s time to clean out the closet and drawers again.  Most, if not all, of my winter sweaters are too big and I have a lot of casual shirts that Moore’s clothing drive didn’t want.  Didn’t mind wearing the oversize t-shirts in the summer around the barbecue, but now they’re taking space away from increasing collection of athletic gear. I’m sure there’s a charity in desperate need of warm clothes this time of year, so it’s time.

Looking at the title this week, it’s hard to believe that a year is almost up.  It’s been a remarkable journey. With the holidays coming, it’s going to be important to stick to the plan.  Christmas parties are notorious for crappy, unhealthy hors d’ouerves.  The receptions my office hosts are among the chief culprit.  Try as I might, getting a veggie tray added to the offerings has been an uphill battle.  Since I’m leaving soon, it’s one of the few battles I’ve given up on.  Tried my best, but it will soon be someone else’s problem.

While the end of the year may be cause for reflection, I plan to spend the last few weeks looking more forward than back.



Week 45 – Gearing Up

Winter is coming.

Since the adaption of Game of Thrones was announced for HBO, you’ve been seeing that phrase a lot this year.

In Canada, winter is almost always coming.  When it isn’t coming, it’s here.

Like death, it stalks us all.

I know it sounds rather ominous and gloomy.  The truth is I like winter. Not fussy about the short days, though.  The hardest part of starting my workout routine back in January was the fact that early morning workouts meant leaving my building in darkness and going home from work in darkness.  Daylight happened while I was at work. After a couple of months of this, I have the complexion of one of those emo Twilight vampires without the sparkles.

I love winter activities.  When I was younger, I skied a lot.  My parents would take my sister and I cross country skiing in the woods.  As we got older, we got into downhill skiing.  Growing up in Cape Breton, we were spoiled.  The hill in Ben Eoin was only half an hour form our house in Coxheath, so we would often do our homework after school and head to the hill after dinner.  One of the drawbacks of big city living … okay, medium city living … it is Ottawa, after all … is I don’t have a car.  As such, most ski hills are out of reach.

What I don’t need a car to get to is the Rideau Canal Skateway. 

I live a few blocks from where I took this photo.  I just need to toss on my skates and go.  It gets really crowded during Winterlude with tourists, so I usually avoid it then.

I even managed to skate when I lived in DC.

The reflecting pool at the Sculpture Garden would be frozen every year.  I don’t know how they did it, but they would keep it frozen until the end of March.  By that time, this Canadian would be back in the shorts.  In fact, it was 25 degrees Celsius when I took this photo.  Before you ask, the ice is real, not one of those synthetic all weather surfaces like they had in the Rockville Town Square. There was a nice cafe adjacent to the pool for a cup of hot chocolate afterward.

They also had alcohol, but there were bars nearby that were cheaper.

Winter was always weird in DC.  My friends from the southern US never got used to the cold.  Me, on the other hand, I was always waiting for winter to arrive. The coldest it would get would be -4.  I never got used to the mass panic and chaos that a snow flurry would bring. They would actually call it a “snow shower”.  The idea of American Empire seemed silly every time 4 cm would close down the capital of the free world.

I did, however, miss “snowpocalypse”.

You won’t see guys like this on the Weather Nework up here.

BTW, for those not up on their weights and measures, 22 inches is about 56 centimetres.  That’s a legitimate snowstorm even in these northern climes.

It’s also my first winter as a runner. New season means new gear. New gear doesn’t necessarily mean more gear, though.  With the Running Room’s one year unconditional warranty on its Running Wear brand, I got to return my old gear that I bought when I started in the spring because it’s now too big. Yep, the warranty even covers weight loss. Between my store credit and my instructor’s discount, I managed to fully stock up on winter gear (jacket, pants, thermal undies, socks) for a net expense of $13. Pretty good, huh?

I also took the first step in the next phase of this journey.  I signed up for the half marathon for Ottawa Race Weekend.  I’ll take the Running Room clinic that begins in February.  I will have to pick up some new spring/summer gear along the way because even stuff I bought in June/July is too big.  I really need to give my drawers a similar gutting as I gave my closet earlier this year.

My apartment looks like I’m getting ready to move. Now that my size is stabilizing, I’ve been buying some clothes on Beyond the Rack again.  I don’t have to worry about being a different size then when I ordered. I’ve ordered a few shirts and sweaters as well as some athletic gear.  I think the smallest discount I got was 50%.  Even bought a $700 Invicta watch for $60. Seems like everything arrived this week. One shirt was the wrong size, but they have a pretty good return policy.  Just slap the prepaid return address label on the box along with the return UPC sticker and the purchase will credited to my account.

Winter is coming.

And I am ready.

Just bring it.


Week 44 – New Low

Thanks everyone for your continued support.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  There were a few deaths among my social circle in the last week.  My best friend, Christian, lost his father.  My boss lost his brother-in-law.  A colleague at Dominican University College also lost his father.  Apparently that rule of three is not an urban legend, after all.

It is also Remembrance Week, culminating with Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada.  Remembrance Day is always emotional for me.  As you may have read in previous posts, both my grandfathers served in the Army in World War II.  I was only a few months old when my paternal grandfather, Tom Read, Sr., passed away after a long struggle with cancer so I didn’t get know him but always felt his presence growing up.  I’ve written previously on the influence of my maternal grandfather, Donald MacEachern.  Since he was a carpenter, the Army trained him as an engineer.  In the civilian world, engineers primarily build things.  In the military world, they blow them up.  He was diffusing bombs left on a bridge by retreating Germans, when enemy artillery took a chunk out of his lower leg.  He recovered, returned to Cape Breton to raise a family, build a city, and never spoke of the war again.

While I often think of my grandfather this time of year, in recent years the number of people I think about has grown substantially.  Like many of you, I have friends and family in the Canadian Forces.  Almost all of them have served in Afghanistan. I’ve been lucky that they all came back. Some of their colleagues weren’t as lucky.  I will forever be thankful for their sacrifice.

Now it wasn’t all misery this week.  I hit a new low this week.  Context is everything. When writing about weight loss, hitting a new low is good news.  I clocked in earlier this week at 168 lbs.  I had added a few pounds since reaching my goal, but had shed those and hovered at the 170 mark for the last few weeks.   Don’t worry, I’m not going to rename the blog anytime soon.  According to the BMI scale, I am now no longer “overweight”.  Since there a lot of factors the Body Mass Index does not consider, I’ve always called it an imperfect measure. That said, it is one indicator among many that I’m still going in the right direction.

Speaking of indicators, I’m going to do something really fun tonight before my 5k clinic.  I’m returning the Running Wear brand clothes I bought back in March when I started running. The Running Room’s brand of gear comes with a one year warranty that includes being too big as an allowed reason for a return.  Smart business move as it makes for a great safe investment.  Knowing I could return it in a few months after I shrank out of them was a deciding factor in buying the store’s brand.

Remember, I was still well over 200 lbs when I took up running in March.  I wasn’t yet in the mood to buy anything but the bear necessities.  I needed running gear, though.  When I started, I had one pair of track pants that were XL in waist, but also in length.  A nylon pullover from a mutual fund company had already become overly baggy.  I needed some gear to get started.  Now it’s time to return it.

Just in time to get winter gear!  Before you ask, no, it’s not a coincidence of timing. I actually waited this long so the store would be fully stocked with winter gear.

Another milestone.


Re-Post: My Dad….

Last week began with some pretty rotten news.  Christian of Insightfully Bald rang me up to let me know his father passed away last week after a lengthy series of illness.  I’ve known Christian since 1997 and his father, Serge, was always fighting some life-threatening ailment.  Despite his struggles, every time I met him, he had a smile on his face and a joke to tell.   

Since I’ve written about how my family influenced me, I wanted to share Christian’s post about his Dad.  It was too good not to share.

My Dad…..


Week 43 – Evening the Odds

Had another great week.  Thanks for all the great support.

Having fun with the Greco Lean and Fit program.  The exercise classes can be really killer.  Once upon a time, “killer” would not be meant as a compliment, but now I crave a killer workout in the morning.  There’s some exercises that I totally suck at – pretty much anything involving those slider pads.  I just don’t have the coordination to get them right … yet.

The meal plan for the Lean and Fit program is more open ended than the one I had at Free Form Fitness.  This is good because now that I have recently gotten back low glycemic carbs like sweet potatoes and brown rice, the idea of starting back at zero and giving them up again was not welcome.  Like everything else, I have to watch the portions, but at least they’re not off limits.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that it’s not the weekend I need to fear when it comes to food choices, but the actual work week.  The weekend is easy.  Since Friday is a run day, dinner that night is usually a swing by Freshii where the least healthy thing I might order could be their bangkok burrito and there’s nothing off meal plan about it.  If I’m out on Saturday, I’ve usually eat before I drink so at least one choice that night will be made sober.

It’s the work week that is killer.  Since there are a lot of social functions with my day job, and the Senate sitting can be unpredictable, it can often be a late night.  In my pre-fitness days, it wasn’t unheard of to have lunch at noon and not get out of the office for the night at midnight.  At which point, you’re so hungry your brain is not functioning properly and pretty much any food choice you’ll make will be a stupid one.  Even if I didn’t stop for take out on a late night, I might get home only to order delivery.

This is the type of stupidity my brain would take as rational:  Let’s pay $20 for the pizza place two blocks away to bring me a large pizza in half an hour when I already have the ingredients in the  fridge to make a single pizza in ten minutes for about $4.

The key is to have something ready to eat when I get back to my apartment.  For this, I’m trying out the Red Apron. They make gourmet meals to go using fresh, local and organic ingredients.  I picked up some of their frozen single serving meals along with some fresh stuff for that evening and a bean chipotle dip that was amazing.  The meat/vegetable/carb portions are about right for Greco’s nutrition plan. I’ll often add a salad or roast some additional veggies for good measure.  Pretty simple preparation: thaw then heat.  I’ll take them out of the freezer when I’m leaving for the day and they’ll be thawed by the time I get back.  Since I’m never fussy about the microwave, I usually put them in the oven which gives me a chance to cook some more vegetables. Last night I roasted some brussel sprouts in olive oil while Shepard’s Pie warmed for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Knowing I have a fresh meal a mere twenty minutes after I get home helps cut down on the temptation to stop for junk food on the way home or order out when I get there.

I started my new 5k clinic at the Running Room last Friday.  I have pretty good group.  It’s about eight, the same size as my last clinic.  Some of us showed up on Sunday dressed for Hallowe’en.  I threw on a SHIELD t-shirt I bought at the Comic Book Shoppe on Bank St.  Since I couldn’t find an eyepatch in time (in truth, I didn’t look that hard) I went as Agent Coulson instead of Nick Fury.  (Think Agent Coulson is just a stuffed suit? Check out the short “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” on the Captain America DVD).

I have a few repeat offenders – runners who have been away for a while due to injury or other issues and are coming back – and some newbies.  Among the newbies is my friend Vicky.  Since she’s already done the Army Run, it seems weird to lump her in with the newbs, but it is her first clinic.  Having a familiar face in the group makes it a little easier to start in front of a new group. 

Speaking of familiar faces, some of the alumni from my last clinic have still been coming out to the practice runs.  Some are running with my group, while others are running with the 10K or half-marathoners depending on the distance they’re going that day. After ten weeks of putting up with me, they’re still running. 

I guess I did something right.