Category Archives: wedding

The saga continues…

So remember how I was going to keep you posted on those new adventures in Fredericton?

Kind of failed miserably on that one.

In a nutshell:

I trained solo for the Army Run Half Marathon. Did well with another sub-2 hour finish, but not as well as I wanted. Made the rookie mistake of starting too fast and running out of gas.

I learned a few lessons from solo training this summer:

1. I can do it.

2 Running alone sucks.

3. Never eat corn the Saturday night before a long run.

I think those are self-explanatory.

Started training for the Bluenose Marathon. Went old school and did the Running Room clinic here in Fredericton. Whether it was those tumbles last year in the Hypothermic Half catching up to me or just plain wear and tear, I ended up with a Baker’s cyst under my patella and doctor’s orders to lay off the training. Oh well, next year.

Still keeping active, but laying off the high impact cardio. I’ve been hitting the swimming pool at the YMCA most mornings before work.

My promo photo

How’s that for an “after” photo?

On the professional side, work is going very well. I spent the summer studying for my life licence exams. Passed those and then waited months for the province to approve my application. Now approved, I’ve been going gangbusters on expanding my firms employee benefits division as well as working with individual clients.

I’ve also been teaching some political science courses at my alma mater, St. Thomas University.  The teaching was an unexpected opportunity, but a welcome one. Given the academic job market, I’m pretty lucky to be in a position to even use my PhD. Since both courses I taught were as a replacement for a previously hired professor, the timetable was not of my choosing (like most part-time instructors) and finding the balance between the primary and secondary employers was difficult. With training for a marathon on top of two jobs, it’s a good thing Kalin and I were long distance as we would have seen each other just as much.

That’s right, I wrote “were” long distance. Our long distance relationship is no more. It’s now a no distance relationship.  We’re engaged to be married and will be tying the knot next year.


We have many adventures ahead, one of which is a new blog we’ll be co-writing, In Omnia Paratus: An Adventure in Literature, and Life.

As for this blog, it’s time to put it to bed. I’ve enjoyed sharing my story. Sharing it helped keep me accountable and contributed to my success. As fitness has become my routine, however, I’ve found I’ve had less new experiences to write about. Two jobs involving a lot of after-hours work hasn’t helped, either.

It’s time to start a new adventure.




My friend, Michael Rudderham, posted this video a week ago on Facebook.

Jay McNeil is a radio DJ in my ancestral homeland of Cape Breton who is on a journey of his own and is bravely telling his own story in a public video blog.

I say bravely because I know it’s something I couldn’t do. I tried. When I moved this blog from the privacy of Facebook to public forum of WordPress I tried to incorporate a video blog. I couldn’t get past doing an intro video. It wasn’t a technical issue. I have a good camera that records in full HD. I’m an iMovie ninja. I just couldn’t get through doing a few minutes without flubbing a line or blubbering like an idiot.

Yes, I wrote blubbering. Cried a few man tears. In my defence, even James Bond cried … twice. As I was reading from the script I had written, my mind wandered through the journey I had taken at that point. It was the end of  July 2011 and I was a mere 11 lbs away from my goal. With most of the journey seemingly behind me, memories and emotions kept flooding to the fore. The early morning wake-ups. The walks to Free Form in the dark, cold winter mornings. The low feelings of hitting plateaus. The unmitigated joy of losing a single pound to break that plateau. The workouts and runs with Vicky and Christian. That first 5K race. Chris and Britt’s wedding. It all just came up. Sometimes it was the giggles. Sometimes it was man tears. Maybe it was my subconscious telling me policy advisors should be heard by the employers and not seen by the public. Whatever was going on in that crazy mind of mine, I simply didn’t have the composure to continue.

I came to realize that writing a blog and shooting a video blog are substantially different activities. There’s a bit of intellectual and emotional distance the written creates creates. Everything I’ve written goes through a couple of edits and re-writes. With video, it’s all out there. Heart and soul. Good on Jay for being able to do what I could not.

The video got me thinking about my identity, who I am versus who I was. I would like to think I’m the same guy. I just shed the fat suit. When I did my weight loss the first time to combat sleep apnea, I told one friend it was to make the outer me look like the inner me. I had positive self-esteem, but I was realistic about what my body looked like. The doctor’s diagnosis helped with that.

Maybe because I was never that heavy, I didn’t settle for less. At least that is what I thought. I’ll probably never figure out to what extent my size and lack of abilities constrained my choices and what I consider success. As worlds of possibility open up before me, it’s obvious that even though I aimed as high as I could, my size put me on a direction where certain choices and achievements were available to me.

That’s okay. I don’t intend to spend any significant period of time being retrospective. I’m not going to be haunted by past successes that just aren’t there.

I’m only starting to understand what it must be like for friends who used to be in shape who have lost their fitness. It took a while because everything I’m doing I’m doing it for the first time. When I look at the past, I don’t see great feats of physical accomplishments. I was on the winning team for “sports day” in sixth grade at Coxheath Elementary. That’s pretty much it for the glory days of youth. Hung up the hockey skates after probably a season. I did summer sports like baseball, soccer, and golf. You know the fervour fans of these sports display? That’s pretty much the level of disdain I hold for these sports. The only thing close to an actual athletic team I belonged to was the Air Gun/Archery club at George Street Junior High.

Two future running bloggers are in this photo. Can you spot them? Winner gets the prestigious Attaboy Award.

That’s not to say I hated sports. I enjoyed non-competitive sports where I could just enjoy myself, like skating and skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer. Maybe that’s why I’ve taken to running. I’m only in competition with myself.

When I look back, though, I see the geeky kid above.  I don’t see provincial championships. I don’t see podiums and medals. Now, to use the vernacular of my generation’s preferred entertainment medium, video games, I’ve levelled up and unlocked new achievements. My greatest successes are in the present. That is where I choose to live.


PS – Speaking of that annual ritual of youthful sadism “sports day”, for any readers in Cape Breton, the Cape Breton Post took a photo of me humiliating myself, at the skipping station one year. For some reason, 1985 comes to mind, but it could have been as early 1982. If anyone were to find said picture and send it to me, I’d be eternally grateful.

So You Say You Want A Resolution III – Give Back

You called in the pros.

You surrounded yourself with friends that are good for you.

Now it’s time to JFDI.





Take the plans others have tailored to your goals and execute them. Follow your exercise plan. Do not deviate from the nutrition plan.

You’ll se some pretty dramatic results at first. The lifestyle changes you’ve made will be such a sudden shock to the system, don’t be surprised if you drop 5 lbs. that first week.

Word of caution, early results are atypical. As your body adjusts, you week to week loss will be an average of 1-2 lbs. Some weeks you may not lose a pound. Some weeks will be setbacks. (NB: I’ve found it helpful to buy my own scale that also does the body fat percentage. Declining BFP in a week where weight increased will show some of those setbacks are due to muscle gain outstripping fat loss).

As the good weeks outnumber the bad, soon the clothes won’t fit and tailoring will have gone from a rear guard action to an exercise in futility.

It’s time to replace the wardrobe.

I actually had to do this twice. I did a mini-replacement in the spring to get through my university commencement and spring sitting of Parliament. By the time fall came, actually by the time summer arrived, that stuff was too big. I did the wholesale replacement of the business wear in the fall and then went on my casual shopping spree in late November.

As you buy new clothes, you’ll have to make room in the closet for the new stuff. What to do with old stuff?

In the age of EBay, Craigslist, and the like, there will be the temptation to sell off your stuff.

Take my advice: don’t.

First, you have so much to sell and so many of the potential buyers are looking for something for nothing, it’s more trouble than its worth.

Second, there will be so many people invested in your success, you will never be able to pay them back directly. Sure, the professional you hire to come up with a plan will be rewarded and they will have earned every nickel, but what of the Christians and Vickys? They helped you because they’re your friends and they saw you for what you could be even if you didn’t. How are you going to pay them back?

The simple answer is: you can’t. The debt you owe them makes Chewbacca’s Wookie life debt seem like a bummed cigarette in comparison. It is because of these people that your immediate life is better. When people ask how are you doing, you’ll sound like a Charlie Sheen interview from spring 2011. You’ve added years to your lifespan. You more than look awesome. You are awesome.

That’s not a debt one easily quantifies. Go ahead, try.

You can start by trying to help them realize their own goals. Vicky and I are about to embark on new challenge together. We’ll be training together for the half-marathon for the Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend.  We’ve already registered for race day and the Running Room’s Half Marathon clinic. We also workout together at GrecoLeanandFit. I hope to be the positive force in her life in the next year that she has been in mine this past year.

BTW, if you’re interested in any Ottawa Race weekend events, register soon. There’s 9000 places per event and they all sell out months in advance. The reason why Vicky was cheering me on for last year’s 5K was by the time she found out she was going to be in town that weekend, the race had sold out. That was almost two months before race day.

My friend Christian is a more difficult kettle of fish. He’s already the accomplished runner and is in great shape.

For that matter, in these recent posts I’ve thus far failed to mention my friends Chris and Brittany, whose wedding this summer gave me the added goal of looking good in a tuxedo?

Or of my parents and grandparents who inculcated the character in me to tackle this challenge?

You start to see the point.

Since I can never repay the debts I owe, I pay them forward.

Yes, it sounds corny, but it’s pretty straightforward.

When it came to what to do with those fat clothes, I waited for Moore’s annual suit drive to donate my business wear and tossed most of my spring and summer casual wear into a charity bin.

the Charity Pile

As that great villain, the Canadian winter, began to rear its ugly head again in Ottawa, I bagged up my winter wear and called the Shepard’s of Good Hope here in Ottawa. They’re in constant need of winter clothes of all sizes to help the homeless survive winter and will come to pick up your stuff. A little known fact, Ottawa is the coldest national capital on earth.

There are many worthy charities in your area that can make good use of your soon to be oversized stuff.

Google them.

Contact them.

Give them your shit. In the spirit of George Carlin, once it no longer fits, it’s not stuff anymore. It’s shit.

It’s of no use to you, give it to someone who will put it to use.

For runners, it’s actually quite easy. Most of the races out there benefit a charity or two. In the four races I ran this year, 9 charities have benefited. If you agree to raise a certain amount for the charity, they will waive your entrance fee. Some charities sponsor runners that fundraise for them. If you agree to raise a certain amount, Team Diabetes will not only pay your registration fee, but the travel and accommodations for international events.  Raise money for Charity. See the world. Run. Downside? None.

While they are all worthy events, the Run for the Cure was the most personal for me as both of my grandmothers have been afflicted with breast cancer. It was really fun event and a great goal race for my 5K clinic. My paternal grandfather, Thomas Read, also died of cancer. Taking part in a run that raises money for a cause you believe in is but another way to combine your new passion for fitness with your duty to pay it forward.

To recap:

Call in the pros.

Surround yourself with Christians and Vickys.


One foot in front of the other.

Pay it forward.

And …

Wait for it …


Week 48 – So many parties, so little time

Crazy week since the last post.

It’s that time of year. The holidays approach like the Imperial Fleet attacking the Rebels at Hoth.

I can’t wait for them to arrive.  I’m looking forward to heading back to New Brunswick for a couple of weeks to see the family and friends.

It’s the lead-up that’s killer.   Receptions and parties galore.  Again, there’s the one’s we host to which I have to go.  There’s some I want to go because I know I will run into friends.  Then there’s the mandatory ones, like my party’s Christmas party.  It’s usually a pretty fun event.  This year was no exception.  The only problem was it was the last event in a series of events that day which included my 5K clinic.  After the Senate rose for the day yesterday, I did a quick walk through of the Senate caucus and staff Christmas party and the Canadian Wireless Association Christmas party before heading to the store to get ready for the clinic.

Quick visit to the change room and Clark Kent became Superman.  Ran 4.2 k with clinic. Quick change back and off to the party.  Sat with some pretty nice people.  One fellow was from up north, Iqaluit.  We ended up talking hunting.  He showed me pictures of walrus tusks and I showed him some pictures of my friends’ polar bear rug.

With a 5:30 wake-up for a workout approaching, I couldn’t stay very long after the meal was done. The pre-dinner run didn’t help the energy levels much.  Had a brief surge of adrenaline when I got home and unpacked my backpack to find my Garmin missing.  In my rush get back into Clark Kent mode, I left it behind at the store.  Thankfully, a quick Facebook message to the manager and it turned up.

Phew! That could have been a very expensive mistake.

Going to be a similar situation tomorrow night. It’s the Speaker’s Christmas Party tomorrow. I have to duck out halfway through for my clinic, on the way to which I’ll stop by Greco for the grand opening of the Sparks St. location.  After the run, I hope to grab some Freshii and make it back to my building in time to catch the end of it’s Christmas social.

Of course, one the pitfalls of this time of year is the abundance of utter crap in terms of food choices at these events.  I try to avoid the temptation by eating healthy before I go so I don’t get hungry and gorge on junk food while I’m there.  It’s worked so far.  My wieight has remained relatively stable throughout the party season so far. Even when the weight is up a bit, my body fat percentage has been in steady decline.  Even tonight, I plan on having my afternoon snack just before the Speaker’s party and then grab a good meal in between events. Hopefully, it’ll be enough to keep the appetite at bay and keep my energy level up. 

Longtime readers will know one of few consequences of this journey has been the death of the night owl I used to be.  I can barely make it past 11 most nights.  I’m not sure if this is necessarily a negative consequence, though.  When I’m awake, I’m rarely tired.  Compared to the man I was a year ago, I feel supercharged.  Like most cars, though, the bigger the engine, the quicker the fuel burns.  Hey, I’ve gone from being a mini-van to an Aston Martin, so what do I have to bitch about?

In the end, not much.

The 5K clinic is still going well.  A little sad, though, I won’t be there for the end.  Winter travel schedules being what they are, I couldn’t arrange my holidays in such a way that I could keep my clinic commitment for those last two sessions, as well as the Resolution Run.  The Ottawa Resolution Run sold out so fast, it hastened the decision to stay in Fredericton.  It will be nice to do a run in my hometown for a change. My folks will actually be there to cheer me on.  It isn’t a timed run, but I would still like to do a personal best since it will likely be my last 5k run before I start half-marathon training. For the first time since I started grad school, I’m looking forward to being a student again.


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 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.



Week 33 – Now behave, Michael, but first…

This Week’s Weigh In: 175 lbs

Weight Loss to Date:  61 lbs

To goal: 5 lbs

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

It feels great to have crossed the threshold of another milestone as I begin my second vacation.  Already I am feeling the challenges.  I am spending a couple of days in Fredericton before leaving for Cape Breton until Labour Day.  While I left enough supplies with my parents in the Cape to eat healthy while I’m there, the Fredericton pit stop presents a separate set of challenges.

Simply, ol’ Mother Hubbard’s cupboards are bare. Buying groceries seems rather futile.  I’m only here until Sunday or Monday, depending on what Irene does.

(For those living under a rock, Irene is a hurricane.  It’ll be a tropical storm by the time it reaches my neck of the woods, but it won’t be a good idea to do a six hour drive in it.  Current forecast suggests it will hit the Maritimes around midnight Sunday and continue raining until Monday.  Will decide when I’m leaving when I wake up Sunday.)

In Fredericton, temptation abounds.  It is the home of my favourite microbrew, Picaroons.  Saturday morning at the Boyce Farmer’s Market is the scene of many a crime.

Instead of pretending these temptations do not exist, however, I’m going to indulge them.  I’m giving myself a 36 hr window starting tonight and lasting until I hit the road on Sunday to feed my temptations.  There will still be restrictions.  The only indulgences will be old indulgences and I have to fit them into my five meal a day pattern.

From Sunday onward, it’s back to the nutrition plan.  I also intend to run and exercise regularly while I’m away.  My next weigh-in won’t be until September 7th, so I’ll have ten days to recover from my 36 hr indulgence period.  I’m also going to cut out beer, even light beer, this time.  Stick with the gin and sodas and scotch.

I’m going to relax, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to take a complete vacation from my nutrition plan and exercise regimen.  I’ve figured out that a vacation from that means more work when I get back to Ottawa.  As I’m getting close to the end of sessions I bought with my trainer, not achieving my goal means either going it alone to the final stretch or buying more sessions.  If I behave over the next week, I can prevent either outcome.

As much as I enjoy the training sessions, it’s time to start spending my money on other things, like replacing the wardrobe that has been utterly decimated in this journey.  Before I left Ottawa, I took four pairs of casual pants I purchased in late April back to Moores for their clothing drive.  They were a 36 waist.  I replaced them with size 32.  I also picked up a couple of shirts that were size 15 1/2.

Once more for the cheap seats:  size 32 pants, size 15 1/2 shirt.  That’s four sizes since I started in January.  The first adult dress shirts I bought in high school were 16.  I haven’t had size 32 pants since I hit puberty.

I committed another crime of opportunity in the wardrobe department.  While having lunch at the Old Garrison District Ale House, I found out local clothier Robert Simmons was having 50% off sale, with the third suit free.  They traffic is some high-end items so the temptation of getting a black label Hugo Boss suit for the price of something of lesser quality that I would buy at Moores was too much to resist.

The suits I bought are, like the Mad Men suit, a size 40.  It’s a little safer to start replacing the suits now.  I’m probably not going to go down another size.  Size 40 fits pretty snug around the shoulders and over my Scottish barrel-chest.  Even if the waist shrinks another inch or two, the chest will be the same.

Getting them back to Ottawa shouldn’t be a problem.  My plan to brink some of my casual fat clothes back to New Brunswick for Dad and my brother-in-law to fight over means there will be plenty of room left  in my luggage for new stuff.  Since I left for the airport from the office, I only packed one suit for my cousin’s wedding and brought the one I wore to work on the plane as a spare.  I have to go directly to the office for a meeting when I get back, so I’ll throw a suit on before I hit the plane.  Long and short of it is there’ll be enough room in the wardrobe bag for the purchases.

One of the great things about being back in Fredericton is running into friends who I haven’t seen in a while.  The reaction on their faces is enough reminder of how important it is to follow through and reach this finish line.


Week 29 – Did you miss me?

July 29, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 181 lbs.

Loss to date: 55 lbs

To goal: 11 lbs

A great couple of weeks. Thank you for all the support.  While I was limited in my ability to reply or even read comments while I was away, you were never far from my thoughts.

Last week was a week off from writing, but not from the journey.  I’ve been going flat out for a while, so it was nice to dial down the pace a bit and get back to Cape Breton to get some real salt water in my system.  Having a salt water swimming pool at my building is great, but there’s something about the Bras D’Or Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean that cannot be replicated in a pool.  It’s probably the gential-shrinking cold.

Had a great time.  It was the first time I saw my parents since commencement in DC, a little over six weeks and fifteen pounds ago.  Mom fought back tears.  Again.  My Facebook-less relatives were shocked at my weightloss.  Spent a good amount of time helping Dad get his boat operational.  The rest was at Big Pond Beach.  Much to the consternation of my family, I wore my speedos to the beach, the ones I refered to in an earlier entry as “aspirational”.  Parts of my legs got sunshine that have heretofor never seen sunshine before.  Needless to say, SPF 60 did not prevent a sunburn.

Sometimes you can learn from recreation.   I actually learned a lot about the challenges ahead during this trip.  In particular, I learned how hard it is to eat healthy when you travel.  I love driving.  If I had the time, I would have driven from Ottawa all the way to Ben Eoin with an overnight in Fredericton.  Instead I flew to Fredericton on Sunday after I finished the last of my groomsman duties for the Reed-Richardson (or is it Richardson-Reed? I’ll let them fight it out) wedding.

BTW, how hot did I look in that tux? For those that weren’t there, I’ll add a photo once I can find one of me solo (the public nature of this new blog means I should be a little more judicious of the photos I post).  I mean that in the sense of temperature, not attractiveness.  It was the beginning of a heat wave and the rented tuxes were winter weight wool suits.  Since I’m the one who talked the grooom into going rental instead of just wearing black suits, I have only myself to blame.

August 6th update – Judge for yourself.  Here’s the video from the wedding (and yes, that’s yours truly drinking from a flask in the thumbnail.  In my defence, the minister offered it me.  Can’t refuse a man of the cloth, even if he’s an Anglican):

Back to our story.  As someone who prides himself of being a rubber-tire tourist, I like to spend as little time on the road as possible.  That means speeding and take out food on the road.  Problem:  the healthy options at the fast food joints aren’t exactly driver-friendly.  Salad is not something that can be eaten with a hand.  The same is true for a bunless hamburger.  Even if I chose chicken nuggets as a lesser evil (which I did on my return trip), the salad still meant pulling into the restaurant and sitting down to eat.  I really and truly hated this.  The food is awful, too.  If you think a fast food hamburger is disgusting normally, try it without the bun.  Most of the condiments stick to the bun and the patty left behind is rather bland.  It’s just not a substanial meal.  I think the DQ fiesta burger at the rest stop in New Glasgow cured me of ever getting a burger from that chain again.

For the actual vacation, I was well prepared.  I made a sidetrip to the Moncton Costco on the way to CB to pick up a jug of whey, a blender, and other foodstuffs it was easier for me to find there and bring than to send my parents hunting and pecking through the supermarkets of Sydney.  I had little problem sticking to the nutrition plan.  I did drink a lot of beer.  It was light beer, but when you drink a lot of light you might as well drink a few at regular strength, instead,  and have a better tasting drink.  The result, combined with some wedding weekend cheats that I probably didn’t swim off, was a weigh-in on Tuesday two pounds heavier than when I left.  Those were gone in 24 hours and I’m finishing the week with the results above, a new low.

Starting to get rid of my fat clothes.  I decided to leave some of the clothes I brought with me behind to let my Dad and brother-in-law fight over them.  Since I’ll probably never wear them again, it seemed kind of silly to bring them back when I could leave them behind and make room for other stuff in my one piece of checked luggage.  I’ll probably do the same when I go back for my cousin Fred’s wedding at the end of next month.

One of my tasks this weekend is to get the donation read for Moore’s clothing drive.  This is the second year the chain is doing it.  They give, in turn, the suits go to local organizations that will help men be properly attired for job interviews.  For your genorsity, they give you a 50% off coupon for your next purchase.  If you have some business-y stuff you don’t wear anymore, you might want to consider donating.   More info, including what they are looking for here.

(BTW – if any women in Ottawa reading this are looking to shed some of their office attire, my friend Marlene Floyd is the Chair of an organization Dress for Success Ottawa National Capital Region that helps women prepare for job interviews and the like. You can find them here.)

As you can see, that’s pretty much 3/4 of my wardrobe.  On top of that I have a lot of stuff that they won’t take that will end up in another charity’s bin elsewhere.  There has been the occassional suggestion that I sell them on Kijjijji or Craigslist to make a few bucks for my trouble.  I’ve been so blessed by the benefits of this weightloss, I feel the need to pay it forward. Sounds sappy, I know, like the movie with the kid from the Sixth Sense and the killer from Se7en.  A more positive spin than my naturual inclination to portray it as punishment for my frivolity.  Not only was I total glutton, but a spendthrift one at that.  Who needs over a dozen suits? Apparently, I did.  I was like the HYDRA of suits.  I would wear one out and buy two more to take their place (in partial defence, I always bought them during a 2 for 1 sale).  I had every excuse:  well some are for winter, some are for summer, some are separates for casual days … yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.

It’s time to get the stuff out of my apartment.  As I’m slimming down, I’ve been thinking about economizing  in general.  Definitely going to keep the suit count down to a more realistic number.  Need to start saving the dough for when student loans come calling for that PhD money in December.  Yep, at 34, I’ll start repaying my first ever student loan. As Dad said to me once, “Hope you having fun while you’re studying, because you’ll be paying for it longer than you were studying.”

No worries. Like the Cylons, I have a plan.  The plan is:  lottery tickets.  And lots of them.


Week 27 – No Flowers for Algernon

July 15, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 183 lbs

Weight loss to date:  53 lbs 

To goal:  13lbs 

I was a bad boy last weekend.  A very bad boy.

Bachelor party in Montreal.  Great time, lots of beer, little sleep, and whenever I had an opportunity to make the right food choice, I almost always made the wrong one.  I made some interesting ones, too.  Rudolph burgers (Caribou with gruyere, bacon and caramelized onions) anyone?  The result was four more pounds on Monday. Through hard work, some extra workouts in the pool on my “off” days and sticking with my nutrition plan, I was able to shed it all and get back to my pre-Montreal weight.

I think the Bachelor intentionally planned this.  One of the running jokes of the wedding planning is when I go in to get fitted for the tux.  The answer:  the last possible day to get fitted before they charge the rush service fee.  Didn’t want to get fitted so early that the suit would arrive too big of course.  The folks at Moore’s downtown Bank St. location were smart.  Since I haven’t been the same size in any two visits this year, they actually ordered me two jackets – the one I was measured for and the next size down.  Sure enough, the smaller one fit best.  I’m going to look good tomorrow.

I knew this would happen and I have only myself to blame.  Like Commencement weekend, I planned ahead but failed to execute those plans. Again, I brought protein bars to snack on, but didn’t bring them with me when I went out.  They’re pretty useless when you leave them in a hotel room.

Weeks like this make me realize how fragile and reversible my progress still is.  It reminds me of the short story Flowers for Algernon.  Its the story of a mentally challenged man, Charlie, selected for an operation that will make him smart.  It’s told through the point of view of his progress reports, or journals.

Sound familiar?  Yeah, thought so too.

And before you ask, yes, this was inspiration for the episode of the Simpsons where they remove a crayon from Homer’s brain and he becomes a genius.

For those that like movie adaptions over books and satirical cartoons, the 1969 film Charly with Cliff Robertson is absolutely heartbreaking to watch (unrelated fact:  Cliff Robertson owns a summer home in Cape Breton.  I met him in the Sydney airport when I was 14.  Besides being “Uncle Ben” in the Sam Raimi-directed Spiderman movies, he co-starred with William Holden in one of my favourite WWII films, the Devil’s Brigade. Anyone besides me catch the reference in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards?).

You see Robertson’s Charlie go from a mentally challenged student working hard at night school to “be like the normal people” to becoming a genius with an IQ of 185.  Of course, if it was all good news, it would probably be a Lifetime movie of the week and not an Oscar winning film.  His co-workers at the bakery become scared of him and conspire to have him fired.  He finds it impossible to connect with people of average intelligence and maintain a meaningful relationship.  He becomes so intelligent he joins the researchers on his case and discovers a flaw in the same procedure that made him smart and realizes he will eventually regress to his former state.   It is made all the more real when he observes the regression of the lab rat the procedure was perfected on, Algernon.  Algernon’s behaviour becomes erratic, his test scores decline, and he eventually dies.  As he declines, he becomes frustrated with the memories of what he briefly was and checks into a hospital for the mentally challenged where no one knows him.  His last journal asks the scientists to put flowers on Algernon’s grave.

I was thinking about Algernon recently.  I first read it in a grade school English reader. Pretty sure it was ninth grade.  One of the few stories worth remembering from those books.  I’m seeing it in a different light these days.  It speaks to one of my fears with this journey:  relapsing.

The reason why I’m afraid of relapsing is that I know it can happen because I did it before.  You’ll remember from earlier entries that starting in September 2004, when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I went on an exercise jag until I left Washington, DC, and went from 244 lbs to around 180.  Then I went off to grad school in the land of milk and honey … and soul rolls … and Five Guys. The PhD student life is a rather sedentary one.  Coupled with bad eating habits from irregular class schedules, and you have pretty good chance of packing on the pounds.  In the five years between when I started and when I finished, every pound I lost returned.

Temptation, like death, stalks us all. One of my stalkers from DC, Five Guys, is coming to Ottawa.  Their website lists a Greenback Rd in Nepean location and another in Kanata as “coming soon”.  So glad I don’t have a car.  For those who don’t know the geography of Ottawa, I live downtown.  Nepean and Kanata are the suburbs.  For my DC readers, think Rockville and Glenmont.  If I want to go to Ikea and Home Depot, I go to Nepean and Kanata.  I ask friends with cars to take me (and promise the Ikea breakfast or the Home Depot hotdog) so I don’t lose half a day on the bus.  Five Guys might as well be in Timbuktu.  They’ll make it downtown eventually.  They’re like a Doctor Who villian stalking me across time and space.

It would be a tragedy not unlike Charie’s to get to my goal only to regress back to a fatty.  I’ve been enjoying the benefits of my increased fitness for some time and I can’t wait to reach my goal.  The reason I’m looking forward to reaching my goal is so I can start weight maintenance and learn how to keep this off before I my current sessions with my personal trainer are used up.  I won’t be going back to old habits this time.  Though it will be nice to sleep in … until 6.

In the end, I’m probably worrying too much.  I won’t relapse for the same reason I don’t have to worry about Charlie’s other problem:  alienating himself from those around him or, in colloquial parlance, becoming a jerk.  Some might argue I was already there when I was a fatty.

The real reason I don’t have to worry is because I have you.  The same way you call me on my bullshit and keep me down to earth, I know you’ll keep me in line on the post-training food choices.  You are a great support and I wouldn’t be here without you.


PS – After the weekend wedding festivities have concluded, I’m on a plane to New Brunswick and then on to Cape Breton.  The only wifi hotspot at the campground across the street is rather tenuous, so no update next week.

Week 11 – Some Long Ass Days Before the Fall

This week’s weigh-in: 211

Weight loss to date: 35 lbs

To goal:  41 lbs.

Another great week.  Thank you for your continued support. I really needed it.  At one point, this whole week seemed like a write-off.  The weigh-ins were a bit of a roller-coaster.  The fact I’ve dropped another two pounds is rather miraculous.

For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, breakfast didn’t stay down on Monday, so that weigh-in was quite low at 210 lbs.  I wasn’t sick, but maybe I drank that shake down too hard and fast.  Maybe it was stomach’s way of saying, “Remember pancakes and bacon?  I do.  I want pancakes and bacon.”  If that’s the case, sorry Mr. Stomach, if you want bacon again you’re going to have tell your friend Mr. Fat his lease has expired and it’s time to leave.  Once he’s gone, you might get pancakes and bacon.  Might.

Despite a couple of receptions my office hosted, I tried to stick to the meal plan.  I know what I can eat and what portions.  I even kept the drinking to a minimum. Shocking, I know.  Despite my best efforts, Wednesday my weigh-in was 214 lbs.  Not a happy camper.

So I turned up the intensity on the treadmill, swam a little longer, a little more in the sauna.  By this morning, I was back down, but only to 211 lbs.  I’ll take it.  To quote the great modern philosopher Vin Diesel, “Win by an inch.  Win by a mile.  A win is a win.”

Speaking of inches, got the latest pants back from Moore’s.  I’ve now had eight taken in.  While I was there I asked my usual salesperson to measure me to see what size I’m currently at.  The reason is I will probably by a new suit prior to reaching my goals, so I have something that fits properly for my PhD commencement in May.  I had the chance to get a suit for under $200 from Beyond the Rack a couple of weekends ago, but since I didn’t know my size, or what size I might be when the suit arrived, I didn’t.  As of last Friday, I’m a perfect size 46.  A far cry from the size 52s I was buying just six months ago.  They suggested if I buy something online that takes 3-4 weeks to ship, order 44 because it can be let out almost 2 inches if I haven’t hit that mark or taken in about the same if I have.  I don’t pretend to understand how women sizes work, or understand women in general, but for men the difference in sizes is about ten pounds.  That means if I hit my goal and drop another 41 lbs, I will drop another four sizes.  Imagine me at size 38?  I don’t think I’ve had a suit that small.  (BTW, there’s actually a couple of suits that are winter weight that I will probably never wear again, so I’m not going to have them altered.  If you know someone who needs size 52 suit and is about 5’8”, let me know.)

As the title suggests, it’s been a series of long days since the last entry.  Long days with little sleep are not conducive to weight loss. Some of the nights have been due to fun. Chris and Brittany’s stag and doe party was a total gas.  Had a great time and stayed away from the junk food.  My one indulgence, a tortilla chip, resulted in a glob of salsa landing on my vest thus rendering a suit to the dry clean bag.  One for karma.  The downside was my day started around 7 am and ended around 4 am Sunday.

Pretty much every day was a late one in the Senate.  You would think it was the last week we would be sitting for the next couple of months.  Oh, wait.  Nevermind.

How long have the days been?  You know you’re having a long day when a three hour philosophy department faculty meeting is considered a break.

Another break I took was to start my 5K training.  I enrolled in Running Room’s Learn to Run 5K program to train my for the 5K race now at the end of May.  It also helped ramp up the cardio.  It runs on Wednesday at 6:30 pm, just a couple of blocks from the Hill.  The training regimen consists of run-walk sets where the run time gets gradually longer so by the time the training ends, you will be running at 3 sets of 10 minute runs with 1 minute walk breaks.  I have to admit I had a pretty good time.  Nice group of people.  It will be interesting to see if they’re as nice during our next session, which is … ugh … 8:30 am Sunday.  Next week is “bring a buddy” week and a couple of friends are coming with me.

Really looking forward to the next few weeks.  I’m pretty close to being below 200 for the first time in a few years.

There shall be temptations ahead.  If you saw my status update last night, another former lover has walked into my veritable Café Americain.  Five Guys has come to Canada.  For my Canadian friends, Five Guys is a chain founded in Arlington, VA, that simply makes the best fast food burgers and fries ever.  Unlike all the other namby-pamby chains, they cook their fries in peanut oil and they are delicious.  I would go to their Rockville location for lunch on Sunday after Mass.  Their standard burger is a double burger and the “small” fries fill a lunch bag.  Probably the only fast food meal I consistently couldn’t finish.  They’ve been spreading south and north and have made it to Toronto, a mere five hours away.  Like the Persian army heading to Thermopylae, they are coming slowly but surely in my direction.  When they come, another temptation will probably find its way to Rideau St.  Like those there know, your support will help me resist the flirtations of this former flame … -broiled goodness.