Tag Archives: 5K clinic

The Big Picture

A couple of weeks ago, I ran the Santa Shuffle 5K out at Tunney’s Pasture with Kalin and my clinic. It was a nice race in support of the Salvation Army. Given the recent news here in Ottawa and in Toronto they could certainly use the help this year (not that they can’t use it year round).

In terms of my own performance, I ran a personal best. The course was a little short of 5K, 4.8K, but I ran it in 22 min 44 sec. Another 200 m and I still would have PB’d in the  23 min range.

That’s not the story I want to tell with this post.

For ten weeks ending with that race, Kalin and I taught our first 5K clinic together. It was really fun having a co-instructor. The one problem I had with 5K clinics is that the paces the participants want to run are so varied that it becomes impossible to adequately supervise the group as the runners spread further apart as distance and pace increase. With a second instructor, we can place ourselves strategically amongst the pack to supervise the participants better than one alone could.

We had a pretty good group. It was definitely my favourite clinic to date.

Our before picture. It was only -12 degrees that morning.

Our before picture. It was only -12 degrees that morning.

We had pretty consistent attendance despite the onset of winter’s cold. Most of them were doing a clinic for the second time or coming back to running after a few years away. There were even two girls from my original Learn to Run clinic last year. It took a couple of classes before they recognized me.

It was Karine we all fell in love with, though.

Karine is a middle school special needs teacher. She ran a fun with her school some time ago. It was a disaster. She finished so poorly, students teased her. Middle-schoolers are notoriously awful creatures. They’re hitting puberty, dealing with hormones and still behave like self-entitled bitches and bastards that haven’t been slapped down by reality yet. At some point in high school, usually when they start asking the folks for the car keys, they regain their humanity.

Karine enrolled in her first clinic to get ready for the Army Run 5K, which she finished in 49 minutes. Now she wanted to do better.

She showed up for almost every run. Only the occasional parent-teacher conference kept her away. Over the course of the clinic, she would tell Kalin that she also took up swimming. She lost a few pounds. Her relationship with her boyfriend was improving. Her anxiety issues were improving.

Kalin was especially encouraging and even offered to run with her during the race.

Since I made it to the finish ahead of the clinic, I quickly collected the bling and made it through the thankfully short gauntlet to get in a position along the route to cheer my clinic on as they made their final push. Kalin and I call this “pulling a Lawrence” after our friend Lawrence Wright. Of course, who do I run into during this, but Lawrence himself.

As they came into the finish, one by one I cheered them on. For Karine and Kalin, though, I had something special planned. I would hop out from the sidelines and run with them to the finish.

Kalin pretty much had the same idea. She just didn’t tell me. As they rounded the last turn and approached my position, I could hear Kalin shout, “Okay, Karine, we’re going to sprint to the finish!” They would start where I was. I ran with them those last 250m to the finish. As she crossed the finish line, I could see the tears well up and freeze as they rolled down her cheeks.

On the other side of the finish line, the rest of our clinic was waiting for her, too. Hugs all around.

She had done it. It was only a matter of what her time was. Kalin looked at her Garmin (the race wasn’t chip timed) and tried to do her best Jeremy Clarkson impression, but her giddiness got the best of her. “Karine, you did it in 38 minutes, forty-four seconds.”

Wow. We were all so proud of her. The cold chased us inside, though, and we gathered for one more group photo.

You know how your told as a kid to not touch cold metal with bare skin? We totally ignored that.

You know how your told as a kid to not touch cold metal with bare skin? We totally ignored that.

Proud of my crew. They reminded me these clinics aren’t about the instructors, but the participants. When I agreed to teach this clinic, it was only on a temporary basis. I was up for a few jobs that would have limited my evening availability. I even asked Kalin to help, figuring between the two of us,  one would be able to make it most nights. As those fell through, it became obvious Kalin and I would see this group through to race day. In the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now on to the next one.



Motivation Redux

Crazy couple of weeks. I got a little busy and didn’t find the time to write a blog post. Thought this week I would turn to a an old topic: motivation.

This past Monday, I was asked to speak to the Slater Running Room’s For Women Only clinic on the topic of motivation. I normally start by telling the story of my weight loss. You can get the Cliff Notes versions in a series I wrote at the beginning of the year. So You Say You Want a Resolution: Part 1, Part 2,Part 3. For the more visually inclined, check out the Journey in Photos.

I’ve written a lot about the various friends that have inspired and motivated me over this journey. One person who inspired me immensely is Randy Pausch of the Last Lecture fame. Here is the most famous university lecture ever:

My favourite part is when he talks about brick walls. Brick walls are there to give us the opportunity to prove to ourselves how badly we want things.

Whether it’s weight loss, running, work or whatever, life is going to throw a few brick walls between us and our goals. It’s how we deal with them that will determine if we’re going to succeed. While I’d like to offer the stereotypical alpha-male response and tell you to just power through it, it’s rather stupid advice. Some of the brick walls that life throws up may be injuries which will require you seek professional advice and modulate your goals. Remember, delaying a goal is not denying a goal.

Since it’s November, there is a proverbial elephant in the room: winter is coming. Even if it ends up being a mild one, the days will be short. We’ll soon be going to from work in darkness. This is the time of year one needs motivation in spades. While the end of daylight savings time means that we’re still leaving for the day in daylight for a couple more days, pretty soon my morning workout and evening run will be in darkness.

This Thursday was a good example of needing an extra dose motivation. I got to bed Wednesday night at a reasonable hour, but for some reason I woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for two hours. I was pretty zonked when 6 am came and I had to decide to go to my Greco Lean and Fit class, sleep an hour and go the 8 o’clock Extreme Lean class. I decided to drag my sorry ass to the 7 am class. Why 7? I have more friends at that class now than the 8 am class.

Tip #1 – keep it social. The reason I was and remain successful on this journey is because it became part of my social life. I see my Greco and Running Room friends more than I do my family. That’s not to say they’re as close as my family, they have a long way to go to reach that status, but I miss them when I’m not there or one of them isn’t there.

Tip #2 – put your money down. My previous job had a workout room in one of its buildings. My apartment building has a very nice workout room, too. Frankly, if it wasn’t attached to the laundry room, I would probably never grace its presence (the swimming is another matter. Love swimming). Paying for a trainer, paying for a Running Room clinic helped motivate me by making me want to make the maximum return on investment. My father is a financial planner, so it helped me to think of how to achieve my goals in terms of strategic investments. By investing what little extra money I had in a trainer then in running clinics, I forced myself to get through those blocks and plateaus so I could get the ROI I wanted.

Tip #3 – be ready. I pack my gym/running gear the night before. At the simplest, it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning. The less I have to worry about, the better I sleep. The better I sleep, the more I get out of a workout. At a higher level, it readies the mind for the next day’s workout and you wake up conditioned to start your day with exercise.

You know who else always has their gear ready? Superheroes. Peter Parker is always a quick change away from being Spiderman. Clark Kent is an even quicker change away from being Superman. Even Tony Stark has a set of armour that collapses into a briefcase so he can become Iron Man at a moment’s notice.

Just as a superhero can never not be a superhero, a runner can never not be a runner. A runner should be as ready to run as a superhero is ready to save the world. Our tights are more colourful, too.

I’m going to need to stay motivated in the next year. I’ve decided I’m not running the half-marathon on Ottawa Race Weekend. Kalin and I are going to run the full marathon.


Done Got Old

This Buddy Guy song pretty much sums up how I felt on Hallowe’en.

When I was younger, I actually ran hot and cold on Hallowe’en. For a fat kid, I didn’t actually like candy all that much. I didn’t have a sweet tooth. I liked salty and greasy things, particularly potato chips. Not enough of my neighbours gave out chips for me to think it was worth my while. My candy would actually get recycled into the following year’s treats for the neighbourhood kids.

What I loved about Hallowe’en was the costumes. I was science fiction and comic book geek from an early age. My first movie in a theatre was a double bill of Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back at the Vogue theatre in Sydney, NS. The Vogue was an old fashioned, early 20th century movie house with a screen larger than most multiplexes have today, including IMAX. My parents put a lot of work into my costumes, too. I’d like to think Mom in particular enjoyed making those costumes as much as my sister and I enjoyed wearing them, but I’m pretty sure they just wanted to make their son and daughter happy.

My favourite costume was the Joker. It was the Hallowe’en after Tim Burton’s Batmanwas out. Like pretty much everyone who saw the film, Jack Nicholson’s Joker amazed me. Mom grabbed a photo from one of my behind the scenes movie books and made one his outfits for me. Ironically, it was an unseasonably hot, humid night in Sydney. My make-up and green hair spray ran with sweat. Little did I know I was serving more as an inspiration for Heath Ledger’s Joker than an homage to Nicholson’s. I didn’t care. I was having a blast.

This year, in the span of an hour, I had probably had more sweets than I’ve had in the last ten years, combined. That’s not a whole lot, but enough that I skipped the sugar high and went straight to sugar coma. There was a bake sale at work to raise money for the Government Workers Charitable Campaign. I bought a few sweets with my lunch. Then there was this bad boy, a contribution of my boss:

This little monster damn near killed me.

Needless to say, after abstaining from the stuff for the last couple of years, my tolerance for refined sugar was non-existent. I countered the sugar with copious amounts of caffeine to get through the afternoon and managed to still have a productive, if sluggish, day.

Thankfully, Hallowe’en was a Wednesday. Wednesday means run club with my Running Room clinic and a chance of redemption for being such an idiot earlier in the day. Scott, the manager of the Slater St. store dressed in the King of Hearts get up, has been encouraging runners to dress up for the last few years. Last year, it landed on a Sunday and I just tossed on a S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt over my regular running gear. This year I brought up a blast from the past.

It took a Thanksgiving trip home, but I found my Star Trek themed paintball jersey from Spplat Attack, a charity paintball game in Joliet, IL, hosted by none other than William Shatner. It was the vacation of a lifetime in 2002 with Mike Clements and Jay Williamson. Sure some Trekkies (“Trekker” makes my skin crawl) have their perfect replica uniforms, but how many can say they wore theirs in combat against the Klingons and the Borg alongside Capt. Kirk?

Fewer than 600.

Ten years later, I’m home for Thanksgiving and found it amongst my long neglected paintball gear.

Good Lord it was huge on me! When we made that crazy trip, I was an XL. Now I’m a medium, bordering on small.

Wearing that huge jersey, I actually felt younger than I have in years. Growing up, I often got the hand-me downs from my older cousins. Wearing that jersey, I felt like I was I wearing someone else’s hand-me downs, from old me to new me. One of the reasons I loved those Hallowe’en costumes is the same reason why I love (despite the fact I can’t afford to buy many) tailored suits: they fit perfectly and they were made for me and me alone.

As much as I love my Holt Renfrew and Indochino suits, Helen Read puts them all to shame.


My new normal

When I started this journal of my weight loss journal, I argued with rising obesity rates that obese was the new normal. It’s been almost two years since that entry, but the Globe and Mail caught up last weekend.

As this week passed, I reached a new milestone. It’s been a year since I reached my goal weight. This year, I celebrated, but nowhere near as bad as the two week food bender I went on during my downtime between finishing with my trainer and joining Greco. Since I had just completed my second half marathon and was in recovery mode, I had a few indulgences. Well, not really. Kalin and I did splurge at St. Louis a couple of hours after our race, but we had just run 21.1 km. I think we can handle it. Might have had some junk last weekend, but other than that I’ve kept to my usual good habits.

I’ve had a number of questions about how disciplined I am in my eating habits and exercise routine. The truth is, I’m not. I don’t feel disciplined. I pretty much eat what I want. The difference is what I wanted then and what I want now are two different things.

When I started this last year, I truly needed discipline.

The biggest change to my eating habits was the no starchy carbs. In fairness, it was the only change. The nutrition plan I was on didn’t keep me from eating meat and most of the vegetables I like, but gone was the baked potato with the steak, the spaghetti carbonara with my chicken, the pizza crust with my pizza.

I needed the shock therapy. Starting from scratch with new eating habits helped me build a new routine that would not just get me out of the fat suit I was living in, but keep me out once I got to my goal weight. I was also working in a relatively fast paced environment in the Senate of Canada (I know most Canadians reading that last sentence are probably gobsmacked to see the word “fast” in any sentence referring to our Senate) which forced me to adapt my routine to the workplace. I was lucky to have a kitchen with a fridge and microwave where I could store and re-heat meals. There was also a cafeteria on the fifth floor and the Parliamentary Dinning Room (but staff rarely go there without their Member/Senator).

The main thing I learned very quickly if I was going to be successful: bring dinner, too. Some days were harder to judge to when it’s going to be long day so be prepared to have dinner at the office. A routine sitting day can become a long sitting very quickly. I might have to fill in for my boss at an event or represent him at a reception. Stuff like that. While the cafeteria stays open until the House rises, anything remotely healthy would be gone after the supper hour rush. If you have your own dinner on hand, the worst that can happen is that you don’t need to use it. In that case, it’s there for lunch the next day and you have a slightly less heavy bag to lug. Some days, I would eat before I left just so I wouldn’t have to cook when I got home. There were also days where I was hanging around the office between the end of the workday and when I would go to my Running Room clinic so I would eat then. 

As some carbs and fats were added back in, I found the ones I used to eat frequently I no longer craved. I like my whole grain pasta, particularly on the Friday before  a long run on Sunday, but I don’t covet it. For all the talk of bacon in the news these days, I’ve bought all of 1lb since January 2011. Don’t blame me for the impending shortage.

Exercise was another routine I had to start from scratch. I wasn’t a total coach potato when I was fat, but I couldn’t/wouldn’t sustain a commitment to an exercise routine to save my life. When I started with my trainer at Free Form Fitness, I started with two sessions a week for six weeks and then went to three. I also needed to find a time that wouldn’t get continuously pre-empted by my professional duties. For me, the sweet spot was the morning. I was not a morning person, but I realized that I was only going to make it to my sessions if I scheduled them for the times when I knew I didn’t have to be at the office, prior to 8 am. Paying for the service also helps. I can be rather spendthrift, but I want to get my money’s worth. Showing up to my appointments was the only way to do that. Having started this new routine in January, it meant beginning and ending my days in darkness.

Today, I’m working out at Greco LeanandFit four times a week (and may ratchet it up to five) and running three times a week. I’ve completed two half-marathons, both with sub-two hour finishes.  

Speaking of running, I’m instructing again. I’m leading the 5k clinic at the Slater St. Running Room. Kalin is helping me as a pace leader. One of the big challenges with instructing the 5k is it’s the gateway drug to running. Some are using it get back into the sport after years off or recovering from an injury while some are new to running altogether. As such the groups spread out rather quickly on the runs and it’s difficult to effectively supervise everyone. The faster may get out of earshot rather quickly and may run longer their body is ready for. I’m glad she’s going to help where she can. Wednesdays can be long days for work, but I’m thankful for the help.

Going back to shorter distances and slower speeds is going to mean some modifications of the routine. Probably going to have to work out a little bit more to earn that Mello’s breakfast on Saturday, but at this point it’s more “Been there. Done that. Bought the T-Shirt.”

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m hitting the road for the weekend. No, there’s subterfuge this year. Mom knows I’m coming home for the weekend. It’s a testament to the fact that I’ve so altered my routine that I can go to the old haunts and not succumb to the temptation to indulge … or at least space out the indulgences to fit the routine.

I’m a creature of  habit and my habits sucked. Only by starting from scratch and building new habits, could I succeed. Succeed I did. Succeed I continue to do.


New opportunities, old challenges

Remember this momentous occasion? I’m still using the bag load of Irish Spring samples they gave me last year. It’s time once again for Moore’s Suit Drive. It’s actually been on for a couple of weeks. Not having needed businesswear for the first half of this year, I hadn’t been by the store in months and only noticed when I walked by the store between meetings a couple of weeks ago. I brought in a couple of my transitional suits. They were size 42. I’m now a 38 or 40 depending on the cut. The local charity which benefits from the drive is the John Howard Society, somewhat appropriate given my new gig.

Yes, I’m back in the swing of things on the job front. I started a new job last week. I’m working as a research assistant at the Parole Board of Canada.  It’s a four month contract and I’m still in the hunt for a permanent post, but I’m enjoying the work.

Now that I’m working again, it’s back to my old fitness routine. The Running Room clinic night on Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice club are late enough that I don’t have to rush out the door to get out there on time.  There won’t be any change on that front. (I have to admit that it’s a little weird to have a predictable schedule for the first time in my adult life.)

I have had to change my Greco routine. I go to the 7 am Lean and Fit classes now. There’s enough time that I can hit the shower and make it to the office for 8:30 without too much rush. It’s a little closer to 9 if I stop for coffee along the way. Frequent readers can probably guess … I start my day at 9. I did try to keep the Tuesday and Thursday Extreme Lean class in my routine. Since it’s a shorter class and ends at 8:30, I can still get to the office on time if I rush. This time of year, I’d rather not. There’s nothing worse in the summer than arriving at your air conditioned office a damp, sweaty, mess. Next thing you know, you’re freezing in your office when it’s damn near 50 degrees outside.

Making it to the gym for 7 means waking up at 5:30. Yes, that’s 5:30 in the morning. Remember, when I started this journey a year and a half ago, I was getting up that early, sometimes earlier. That was in January when it was pitch black and -20 out. This time of year, the sun is shining and it’s +20 out.  It’s a little easier to settle into a routine in those conditions. I’m also modifying a routine, not starting fresh.

So it’s going to be the 7 am class four times a week for the foreseeable future. When I started the year off unemployed, I kept going to the 7 am class for a while. I probably started going to the later class around late February or March. As I realized that the job situation was not going to be resolved as quickly as I originally anticipated, I started going to the later class. After all, I didn’t have anywhere to I needed to be at 9 am.

You may also noticed the blog entries are getting shorter. Sorry. Since I don’t have as much free time on my hands, the 2000+ word entries may be a little less frequent for bit. It’s about quality, not quantity. Right?


Now that we’re in the middle of July, it’s pretty much the peak of the tourist season in Ottawa. With the all the visitors to the downtown, we urbanites, especially the denizens of the Byward Market and surroundings, can feel like the animals at a petting zoo. It certainly makes for crowded sidewalks when running in the evening.

On Tuesday, I actually got to lead the half-marathon clinic in a mini-talk on running drills. It was fun taking the group up to Parliament Hill to do drills on the front lawn.  Since they’ve been watering the lawn nearly continuously throughout our drought, the lawn at Parliament Hill is probably the only green grass in all of Ottawa. Maya, the instructor for my 5K/10K clinic last year, would do the same. I tried to incorporate them into the my own clinics, but I found it just made the participants impatient. Since many of them were doing a 5K race for the first time in their lives, the importance of drills (to improve flexibility and improve speed) was utterly lost on them.  My 2 hour pace group can be quite large, but leading the entire clinic gave me an appreciation of just how large the group is. I lined up the group parallel with West Block and they took up the full width of the lawn. The Hill is teaming with tourists. I’m sure we made a bunch of Facebook albums in Japan and whatever highly censored version they have in China.

Wednesday was another hill night. Five repeats this time. We split them between Fleet St. and the Rideau Locks, with a nice tempo run in between. I enjoyed this in the last clinic, but I can’t help but think this is a mistake this time of year. In addition to the usual competition for space with pedestrians and cyclists, the Locks hill is full of tourists watching the locks in action or hanging out at the Bytown Museum waiting for their boat tour to come in. We easily add another 90 people to that equation. On my first run up the hill, I go caught behind a man in an electric wheelchair that I had a little difficulty passing. Since the hill is too steep for the electric motor of the chair, he had to criss-cross the width of the path. For giving one of my instructors a thumbs up as we passed each other on the hill, I almost lost an arm to a douchebag cyclist that thought the downward slope of the locks hill was the finish line of the Tour de France. Same asshole dinged Kalin further down the hill.

If we meet again, you’ll have one thing in common with Lance Armstrong. One thing. It won’t be the number of titles.

The weather has much improved in Ottawa. We had a wicked afternoon and evening  of thunderstorms Monday that broke the back of the humidity. It’s still a littly muggy here, but the highest humidex it reached post-storm was 36 degrees. Even that night there was a breeze which pretty much cancelled it out.

For the first Sunday in a few weeks, I’m looking forward to Sunday’s long run, 14K. It’s a nice route that takes us through Old Ottawa South, through Carleton Univeristy and the experimental farm. It’s supposed to be a nice sunny day. Fingers crossed.


The hills are alive…

… with the sounds of runners.

What? You were expecting this:

While that might may be one of my mother’s favourite songs (seriously, she would break out into that song almost randomly growing up), it’s not on my iPod.

It’s been a crazy busy week.

Probably going to have some positive news on the job front soon. Don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m going to exercise custody of the tonque or, in this case, keyboard for now.

Whatever may come in the weeks ahead, I will be adapting my exercise routine to compensate for certain things … like the fact I’ll have somewhere to be at 9 o’clock, so no more lollygagging at Greco. Probably going to have to go to the earlier 7 am classes. I will probably still be able to go to the extreme lean and fit classes, but will play it by ear.

It’s always good to change up the routine, but the running routine will stay the same for now. We’re into week 7 of my half marathon clinic. That means hill training has begun and will continue for six weeks. We started with three repeats and will work up to 8.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about this part of the training. On the one hand, it’s great strength training on the legs. There’s a few hills on the typical race course even here in Ottawa and it helps to be over prepared than under prepared. The intensity of the workout also gives you a bit more of a rush than the average tempo run.

On the other hand, it gets rather mind-numbing as the repeats increase. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down.

I also like to take my pace group for a 2 km cool down after the repeats are done. It helps to work out the lactic acid that can build it in the limbs during strength training.

We have the added challenge doing this doing a heatwave. It’s been so long without any rain in this city that a class 2 drought has been declared. The dirt and dust kicked up by the roadwork being done on Rideau St. Is not helping my lungs at all.

While we may have a target race and goal times in mind, training, in general, and running, in particular, is something we want to do for life after and between races. If you never run another race after our clinic, will you want to and be prepared to run on your own or even come to the Wednesday and Sunday practice clubs? Seems like the answer is yes. I’ve been running into quite a few of my previous clinic’s pace group in the last couple of weeks, as well as alumni of my 5K clinics, and some have come back to the Running Room and are taking other clinics (Andrew at the Slater St. Running Room is experimenting with an advanced 10K program if anyone is interested). Some are running on their own.

They’re all still running.

So am I.


I’m definitely in my zone

This will probably be a short post.

I know, I’ve said that before at the beginning of some posts and then proceeded to chug out 2000+ words.

I could go on about some subject, but I’m getting in the zone for Sunday. I’ll probably be deluging cyberspace with post-run writing next to make up for my complete lack of verbosity this week.

The final week of training is when we taper our activities. We cut down on the distances for running. We also cut back on cross training, so I’ve been abstaining from going to Greco Lean and Fit this week. Miss the gang there and they certainly helped me build the strength to augment my running.

Sunday’s LSD run was a mere 6K. Longtime readers will now what a statement it is for me to call 6K “mere”. It’s been a year since my first 5K race. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday, how the cool dampness suddenly became hot and muggy minutes before gun time. Having to dodge the droppers and pukers as I charged to the finish line.

(Note to Kalin for Saturday: don’t follow anyone too closely. They may become a human hurdle as you’re gunning it for the finish)

It’s times like this that I think of how far I’ve come and how I wouldn’t be here without the help of my friends. I’ve made a few friends along the way, too. Taking this blog public last summer helped me take my story public and introduced me to a whole new readership. I even wrote an article for the Running Room magazine.

Tuesday and Wednesday we did race pace! A lot of the runners in my pace group were scared shitless at the prospect of this on Tuesday when we did 10K, almost half the race!. I calmed a few nerves when I reminded them that race pace was slower than the speed drills we did the previous week. It felt good to get the distance in at that pace. We were actually faster than race pace most of the run and came in 55:33. It made Wednesday’s 6K at race pace a relative breeze.

Despite the relative breeze it was not an uneventful run. We had a good lesson in the reason why a) we call out when bikers are passing us and b) why listening to your music player while on a training run is a bad idea. Since we were doing 10 minute running intervals, I decided to save turning around until we finished the second interval. As I turned around to start the walk break, a bicycle was zooming towards me. I distinctively jumped to the side and hugged the railing separating the trail from the Rideau Canal. Forward momentum swung my body forward. It took every ounce of core and upper body strength to fight inertia and not end up in the drink. I guess I have the Greco Sparks St. gang to thank for that.

When I got my feet back on the ground, I turned to my group and shouted, “Now that’s why I keep yelling ‘biker back/bicker up’!”

“He didn’t use a bell,” they protested.

As I looked over my pace group, I saw the wires dangling from their ears with more headsets than the victims of the Cybermen. “Would you have heard him if he did?”

Sheepish looks. Fuck it. Let’s run.

It’s going to be a pretty full couple of days leading up to this race. Kalin and I went with our running friends to get our race kits last night. The expo seemed smaller than last year. Some of the bug bears of last year’s race weekend . I have to say the “just a 5K” attitude from volunteers and vendors was palpable and utterly unwelcome. It starts with the cotton shirt that is included with registration when everyone else is getting technical shirts and trickles down from there.

This is completely unlike the Army Run in the fall which is weird because both events are organized by the same people, Run Ottawa, and the events have grown to the same size as Race Weekend. The only difference between the 5K and half marathon shirts is colour. Maybe since there’s no Boston-qualifier marathon, more people are focused on the purpose of the event, raising money for charities that support Canada’s veterans, and having fun.

Tonight we carb up. Tomorrow, Kalin runs her 5K, which she’s going to rock despite her setbacks. She’s going to make me proud.

Sunday morning is my day with destiny. I

I’ve trained all I can. I’ve done everything I’ve been told. Now it’s time to run the race and see what happens.

Now the fun begins.


In whatever nature throws at us

Wednesday was a crazy practice run.

That shit cray?

Yes, Kanye, that shit cray.

Now don’t interrupt me again. This ain’t Taylor Swift you’re pestering. Storm my stage and interrupt me and I will knock you on your arse.

We had gotten through two days of rain when I set out for the Running Room. Since I don’t do Greco in the morning on Wednesdays, I get a little stir crazy and usually head out early and grab tea at Bridgehead before the run. It also gives me a chance to hang out with Kalin for a bit before we split up into our separate clinics.

It was Kalin’s first run since the accident. She was looking forward to it. She was only able to complete one 10 minute interval before her ankle flared up, but that’s 10 more minutes than she would have done otherwise. Her history in sports has helped speed her recovery greatly. I have no doubt she will do well Ottawa Race Weekend. It might not be as well as she wanted to do before she was hit, but considering she’ll be racing just a little over a month after she was hit by a car just making it to the start line is an accomplishment.

Since her accident, we’ve been both extremely cautious pedestrians. She actually chased down a driver who almost clipped her again outside of Loblaws this week. I accosted a cyclist yesterday who seemed to think traffic signals didn’t apply to him.

By the way, as bad as the drivers are in this town, what the fuck is with the cyclists? It’s a pretty common occurrence in my neighbourhood to watch cyclists run red lights or stop signs. I had a physical altercation with such a cyclist last summer. He ran a red and almost collided with me on the crosswalk. I was on my feet in the end. He was on his ass. Then there’s the Lance Armstrong wannabes along the pathways. One was so rude to my runners one Sunday morning, Easter Sunday actually, I offered to make his bicycle seat a permanent part of his anatomy.

A month ago, I watched a cyclist almost get hit by a car just a block from my apartment building. The cyclist failed to even slow down, more or less stop at the stop sign. Luckily the car stopped and, for the driver’s trouble, he was accosted by the cyclist for not potentially killing them. I had to interject and shout, “Hey, you’re the asshole who didn’t stop at a stop sign!”

The cyclists in this town don’t think the traffic laws apply to them. Not only do they apply, so do the laws of physics. In car vs. bicycle collision, the operator of the car walks away every time.

Back to Thursday, Kalin and I were crossing Wellington St. in front of the Chateau Laurier when a cyclist, a true devotee to the religion with his spandex and helmet, failed to stop at the line for the red light. He did stop mere inches from me. “See that?” I asked pointing to the red light above me that was facing him.


“Obey it!” Maybe it was the Christian vibes from the right-to-lifers still lingering around the parliamentary precinct following the annual March for Life or the mere fact there were a couple of hundred potential witnesses who could testify at my trial, I resisted the natural temptation to demonstrate what happens when cyclist meets fist.

Pedestrians aren’t saints, either. We’re not surrounded with I’ve seen some use the segregated bike lane on Laurier as their personal sidewalk overflow. The bottom line is: obey the rules and we all get along in the shared space that is our city.

Back to the chaos of Wednesday, my half marathon clinic was doing speed drills again. We were barely done the first mile-long interval when the rain started again. It was a pounding rain, too. As we were proceeded through our drills, distant thunder grew closer. Lightning soon followed.

Once we finished the final lap of our third mile, the storm was fully upon us. Not since I ran in an F-0 tornado last year had I run in such terrible weather.  Ironically, one of the participants from the clinic that ran in that tornado was running with me Wednesday night. She’s a nice girl, but she might be a bit of a jinx.

The rain was coming down in sheets. The thunder was rumbling like a truck barrelling down the highway. Chain lightning arched a crossed the sky.

It was time to JFDI and GTFO.

I didn’t bother leading them on a walk lap after the fast mile was done.  Instead, we collected our gear and went right into our steady run back to the store. With it so miserable out, the steady run was closer to a tempo run. As you can tell from the map (click the link above), we also took a shorter route back to the store. As we ran up O’Connor, we encountered the odd pedestrian or cyclist braving the weather. One pack of hipsters took one look at us and said, “Whoa, these guys are hardcore.”

Yes, we were hardcore, but I was the only guy. Other than myself, there were only two men in my group Wednesday night and both finished early due to injuries flaring up.

Once at the store, I didn’t see much point in getting changed into dry clothes. It was raining so hard the running shell I brought as a jacket would be quickly soaked through, along with whatever I wore under it. I was already soaked to the bone. There wasn’t a single square inch of dry left on me. At that point, I figured it was best to just get home and get under a hot shower. Changing would have only delayed the inevitable.

I made a brief stop at Bridgehead for some tea to warm up the insides for the walk home. I should have just run home, but truth be told, I hadn’t had dinner yet so my tank was pretty empty. I walked as fast as my cold, wet, and tired legs could take me.

On the walk home, I ran into Vicky’s boss, the Honourable Rose-May Poirier. She looked at me and said, “Michael, you’re going to get soaked!”

I looked myself up and down, including my raisin-like finger tips, chuckled and replied, “With all due respect, Senator, I think I’m already there.”

By the time I got back to my apartment, my hands were so numb that I was having trouble typing text messages on my iPhone. The pruned finger tips didn’t help. I showered and ordered some dinner.

I’d like to say that I got up the next morning and, like a boss, went to my usual Extreme Lean class at Greco. I would like to say that, but I can’t. I forgot to set my alarm and woke up too late to get there. My late dinner also meant that I didn’t sleep very well. I’ve been there pretty religiously this year, so I think I can take a day.

We started off with such great weather this week. Sunday’s 18K LSD was gorgeous. The sun was out, the heat was in the low teens. Perfect running weather. The route was a nice mix concrete sidewalks, asphalt roads, and trails, both gravelled and ungravelled. We ran through the conservation area in Rockcliffe park and it’s very narrow wooded trails along Lake MacKay.

I even got my first sunburn of the year. It’s evolved into nice farmer’s tan that is dark brown until the mid-bicep where it reverts back to white. Thankfully, the same is not true for my lower half. You can imagine what my predilection for running in shorts and knee-high compression socks could generate in tan lines.

It was pretty humid Tuesday for our 6K tempo run.  It seemed to take forever for my Garmin to get a signal so I let the 2:15 and 2:30 groups go ahead. It gave my runners some early confidence boosting to pass them. I didn’t dress properly for the weather and wore a top that was too loose for the weather. Longtime readers will know what that’s a recipe for: nipple chafing.

Yep, I did it again. It was just some slight chafing and has already healed.

We pretty much ran the gamut of weather this week.  We’re ending the week as we began it, with a gloriously sunny day.

As I’ve said before and will say again, I will train in whatever nature throws at us so I can race in whatever nature throws at us.

Even if it includes cars and cyclists.


Mediocrity is for another town, like Toronto

I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind wishes for Kalin and her recovery. Frankly, it’s been frustrating for her. It seems like whenever she makes progress at getting back towards her pre-cancer level of fitness, the fickle hand of fate seems to come by and knocks her down again.

Sometimes figuratively. Sometimes literally.

Like the Chumbawumba song, though, when she gets knocked down, she gets back up again. You’re never going to keep her down.

She’s still going to do the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K, even if it means walking.

She’s already looking forward to training for the Army Run Half Marathon.

No idiot cabbie is going to keep my Kalin down.

Last week’s post had me thinking about how much mediocrity we accept here in Ottawa. Whether it’s the state of the cabs, public transit, or the street food scene, there’s a lot of aspects of this city where it seems content to be a second class city.


There’s no reason why this can’t be a world class city. Sure, Ottawa has the disadvantage of being just a couple of hours from Montreal in one direction and Toronto in the other. Nowhere is this more apparent when one of their NHL comes to town to play the Sens and the visiting team’s fans outnumber the home team’s. This is despite the fact, that our team is more likely to playing hockey in late April than theirs.

Quick aside, thinking of writing a satire of all the atheist tracts out by replacing the replacing the word “God” with “Leafs”.

The Leafs Delusion

The Leafs are Not Great

You get the picture.

If anything, Toronto is the city settling for mediocrity. It’s been almost a decade since a Leafs fan cheered for their team in the playoffs. For all the fervour their team generates, the league knows that if they moved a winning team to the suburbs, like Jim Basillie tried to do twice, the Air Canada Centre would be empty. It’s been twenty years since the Jays won the World Series and they haven’t made a post-season since.   The Argos ownership is praying the NFL doesn’t expand north and take their fans away. The Raptors haven’t been a contender since Vince Carter left.  I discovered Toronto had an MLS team when I moved to Washington.

Montreal has a lot going for it, but three words: the Big O. Even if there was a reason to go there, you need a hard hat to make it out alive.

In the end, Toronto and Montreal are Toronto and Montreal. They each have their own virtues and vices.

In Montreal’s case, it’s vices are its virtues.

I lived in Washington, DC, for three of the last five years from doing my PhD. Within a four hour drive, you can be in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or the Big Apple itself, New York City. Do the people in Washington spend their evenings whining about how DC isn’t NYC? No. Neither should we.

We here in Ottawa have a special responsibility to demand our city be better. It’s our city, but it’s Canada’s capital. We need to speak up for the millions of Canadians who want their capital to be welcoming place for its citizens and the world.

What do we give them? A capital where to sit on a patio is be harassed by panhandlers?  A street food scene dominated by poutine trucks and hot dog vendors that sell the same frigging sausage? Cabs that smell like ashtrays?

Public transit here is a prime example how we continue to accept half-measures. Twenty-five years ago, they built the Transitway, a series of express bus routes. Bus routes. They could have put a train in a quarter century ago and didn’t. They added the O-Train, largely Bob Chiarelli’s sop to the commuting students at Carleton, but didn’t run it all the way to the airport. Even if they did, the end of the line is a station in the middle of the Transitway, not downtown. They had a plan for a train that council had approved that would have seen trains sharing surface streets along Slater and Albert Sts. where the Transitway buses now run through the downtown. Thankfully, Larry O’Brien became Mayor and scrapped that plan. Probably cost us millions in cancellation fees, but having seen cities where trains share traffic with cars, bicycles, etc., I’m convinced that plan was a disaster waiting to happen. The current council has a new plan and keeps frigging around to keep the costs down. The current debate is the location of the eastern most downtown station. It was supposed to be under the canal with exits in the Rideau Centre and the NAC/Confederation Park area. Now it’s going to be under the Byward Market. I’m sure by the time all is said and done, the exit will be in the middle of the Market and visitors to our capital will greeted by the sea of panhandlers we wade through every time we walk down Rideau St.

We can do better, Ottawa.

It seems like all my friends can’t wait to move out to the suburbs, to get away from the dreck of downtown. Cul-du-sacs. Big box stores. Brand name homes. Claridge. Tamarack.

That doesn’t interest me. I grew up in the burbs. Having a yard was nice. Having to hop into the car whenever I needed something, not so much. Pretty sure the reason why Dad bought me my first used car, a K-Car we bought from a cab company, was so my folks could stop playing taxi and get their freedom back. I may leave Rideau and Chapel someday (very soon if I don’t have a job in the next couple of weeks), but it’ll probably be for the Glebe or Westboro. I’m just not interested in commuting on the Queensway. My first apartment in Ottawa, on Loretta Ave, had a bird’s eye view of that scene every day. No thank you.

I stopped accepting mediocrity in myself and changed my life. Now is the time to encourage my city to do the same.

No, I’m not running for something.


Unless you count my half-marathon. More on that in a bit.

Kalin and I engaged in some retail therapy Saturday, except I was the one doing the buying. The Indochino Travelling Tailor was in Ottawa. It might seem irresponsible to be buying a suit when you don’t have a job, but I’ll be working again very soon either here in Ottawa or somewhere else. I had nothing but good experience with the suit I bought from Holt Renfrew, but it was pretty expensive. These are half the price. In fact, they’re cheaper than regular priced (and before alteration charges) off the rack suits at Moore’s and even the Bay.

Remember, accept no mediocrity.

It was a pretty interesting set-up. It happened to be on the opposite corner from the Running Room so I could see the set up when I did my runs last week. Kalin and I went to my Saturday morning appointment. With her retail experience, she was curious about the whole pop-up store concept. I was directed to one of the eight tailors on hand to have some measurements taken. Once the measurements were taken, the tailor had me try on a sample coat #6. Too big. Next, #5. Too small.

No problem. The tailor went and got some help, the company’s co-founder and creative director, Heikal Gani. He took some additional measurements. Like my maternal grandfather, I’m barrel-chested. It wasn’t a problem when I was fat because my waist was wider than my chest. Now my waist is smaller and disproportionately so. Heikal even took some photos of me for reference.

Yeah, I’m unique.

Once the measurements were done, we were handed off to a stylist who helped me pick the fabric, style and the various customization options. I won’t tell you what I chose. I’ll save that for when it arrives. Since I booked an appointment online, I was eligible for a free tailored shirt as well. There was also a gift set that included a tie, tie clip, cuff links, pocket square, and a measuring tape. The suit, shirt, and items in the gift set might go for $1500 at Holt’s. I paid a third of that. My measurements are also stored in my online account, so I can order a suit online now without having to be measured again.

I just have to stay the same size. 😉

Training is continuing apace. It was a beautiful morning for a run on Sunday for an 18K LSD. We used a good portion of last year’s half-marathon route. Think I would have liked to do it in reverse, though, as just a little 5K in, the sight of the Dow’s Lake Pavillion lead a couple of my group to want to stop to use the bathroom. Since it was the only spot on the route I knew of that would have been suitable for a group of our size to make a short stop. I obliged.

Tuesday’s clinic was a presentation from a local Powerbar rep. She had lots of samples, so I was happy with it. The run was 6K tempo. It was the longest run we’ve done thus far at tempo pace. It made for a good warm-up for speed work the next night.

That’s right, we’re done with hill training and have moved on to speed work. In last week’s post, I was so busy venting about Kalin and the cabbie situation, I didn’t bother writing about my running. The truth is Kalin wasn’t the only injured runner I ended up caring for last week. The Fleet St. Hill claimed one of my runners, who had a some knots in her calves flare up, and another who ran on some old shoes for a few weeks too many. Luckily, I had Joanne, who is a trained sport therapist, to help out so I could make sure I could get the rest of the group through their repeats.

On Wednesday, we used the track at Immaculata High School. It’s far enough away that we can get a good warm-up run there and a cool-down back. If I wasn’t a pace leader, I’d probably go there directly from my apartment. We did two 1 mile intervals, each of which consisted of 4.5 laps at a pace of 5:15 min/km and a 1 lap walk break in-between. My group ran more like 5 min/km throughout. Some broke off from the pack on the last half lap, but unlike the long runs I don’t mind. We’re on a track. It’s not like they can get lost. We’ll see they’re so speedy when it the intervals increase.

With the race three weeks away from this Sunday, I’m starting to get into that mental zone. I will only accept awesome.

I am in the business of excellence.

Mediocrity? That’s the other guy’s product.


Painting pictures with words

Thanks for all the feedback and response on last week’s extended rant against the current state of the fast food industry. It felt really great to get that off my chest. Since I’m currently not working, I’ve been at my apartment with the television on while I’m doing other things (like writing this blog, looking for jobs to apply for, etc.) more than I would otherwise. As such, I’m seeing the same ads again and again and again …

You get the point.

After three months of seeing men portrayed as scruffy, fat slobs, I felt like an entire industry was insulting me. It wasn’t like I was ever going to order a Double Down, I didn’t eat that the first time it came to Canada when I was still fat, but it was the blatant pandering to our obesity epidemic.

And you wonder why obesity is contagious despite not being caused by a virus? The obese are now in the majority, let’s not encourage them to buy the healthier option, but instead let’s create menu options to get them even fatter.  If the zombie apocalypse happens, these guys will start serving brains. At least they’l stop cheating on their wives with their secretaries:

I suppose they figured they could never get away with what the alcohol industry does routinely and portray their products as a pathway to desirability. The irony is the average night’s consumption of their product contains the same amount of calories as the fast food burger, which was likely consumed before, during, or after alcohol consumption.

I guess this must be how women feel when portrayed in popular culture as Louboutin and sex-crazed bimbos. At least they get portrayed as objects of desire instead of unkempt, overweight underachievers in a permanent state of arrested development.

Besides, most of the “bimbo” ads are targeted at men’s wallets, not women’s. Even the wallet as target is questionable. Kate Upton for Carl’s Jr., anyone?

Though politics and academia have been more vocation as of late, at heart I’m an idea man.  You’ve probably guessed from following this blog, that I like to write. Writing is my creative outlet. Some create images with paint, some with moving pictures, but I do it with words.

Advertising and marketing is basically crafting an idea regarding a product that makes . When I see crappy, pandering ads it’s not because the product suck (although it probably does), it’s because the company hired a lazy, creative  ad guy who spends more time dreaming that he was Don Draper than actually being Don Draper.

Just remember, wannabes, it doesn’t take a BBA or MBA to come up with an idea. Most of the creative people I know in the marketing profession hold degrees in humanities and fine arts, if any formal education at all.

I just can’t believe these assclowns have jobs despite the declining sales of the products they shill. Apparently an ad firm is harder to fire than a bureaucrat.

Enough venting, more running.

But first, a little public service announcement. For those of us in the Ottawa area, Bridgehead is running it’s Sole Responsibility programme again this year. You can click the link for more information. It’s a great way for us runners to pay forward our good fortune by donating our used running shoes.

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I attended Kalin’s 5K clinic on Friday for their “Bring-a-Buddy” night. It was a relatively quick run, 3 intervals of 7 and 1. I think being there helped nudge her out of her comfort zone. Within in a few blocks, we went from back of the pack to near the front. If not for a couple of guys determined to sprint the last 500 m, she would have been the first one back to the store. On Sunday, she and Vicky, herself making a return to the Sunday morning runs, ran together and were even faster than the two of us on Friday. They outpaced the entire group to the point where they ran further than the range of their instructor’s voice and missed their walk breaks.

I only keep awesome people as friends and the women in my life are no exception.

My Sunday’s run lived up to the name of the day, April Fools’ Day.  The prank was that it was actually spring, but you wouldn’t know it from what was thrown at us. It was a great run, but over the course of the morning we ran through every kind of weather except sun and even a modicum of warmth. At several points, we had heavy flurries. There were rain showers. The nicest part of the morning was when it was just cold and windy.

Like last week, I loaded the route into MapMyRun.com and sent it to my iPhone. Thankfully, I didn’t need it really need it. I only went to the phone twice, once after we had crossed the locks by Carleton, to make determine if I should go left or right at a fork in the pathways, and the other to turn the volume down since the computer voice was bugging the runners (and me , too). Since I used it proactively, I didn’t get my group lost. No extra kilometre this week.

Of the three items I mentioned in last weeks post – hydration, nutrition, and bathroom breaks – all three were important last Sunday. I was well prepared on both hydration and nutrition, but failed to act on nutrition. I brought along a pack of Clif Shots Bloks energy chews, but didn’t actually use them. Around the 12k mark, I could feel the emptiness in my stomach. I knew I had enough energy to finish the run and there was my protein smoothie waiting for me at the store. By the time I got back to the store, I was beyond hungry and it was affecting my mood. It was pretty close to hangry (hungry + angry = hangry). Digging into my pack to find I had forgotten to include certain items to change into. I arrived at Bridgehead in the midst of a caloric deficit in wet clothes.

Thankfully there were two things there to cheer me up: Kalin and coffee. We haven’t been dating that long, but Kalin has learned one thing about me: I’m not a morning person. Until I have that morning coffee or the post-workout endorphins kick in, I’m pretty grumpy. For some reason, I haven’t scared her off yet.

Joanne gave me a few tips to help prevent this from happening again. One is so simple, I should I have thought of it myself: honey in my water. It will give me a natural caloric boost while hydrating me. Can’t bonk on my pace group. That would not be good.

Tuesday’s tempo run was a quick run in the opposite direction of the route we took the previous Tuesday. Not sure if it was any easier on the runners. Last week had us do the double hill by the Rideau Locks near the end, but we still had a kilometre left so we could take a bit of a break and slowly jog the rest to get the heart rates steady. The opposite way has a series of small hills in rapid succession, with not much room on the plateaus to have a quick walk break before hitting the next one.

I actually missed Wednesday’s hill runs. I had a job interview. I made up for it with my Greco Extreme Lean workout the next morning, and worked the legs extra hard.

Apparently, it rained outdoors on Wednesday while I was absent. The grounds of Parliament were soaked when I left.  My group, though, tackled the double hill by the Rideau locks 6 times with gusto. They’re a great group, always pushing themselves to go a little faster and farther.

In the right conditions, a run in the rain can be truly relaxing, like a jog through a shower.

I still prefer sunny day runs, though.


And Happy Easter!