Tag Archives: Grecoleanandfit

New Adventure …. but first

I’ve been a rather negligent blogger. My excuse for the first couple weeks of the year is pretty simple:

I was lazy.

For those that actually remember my post about the odyssey that was mine and Kalin’s return to Ottawa, I was coming back to a rather uncertain future. I started 2013 like I started 2012, without a job and no irons in the fire, either. Out of nowhere, though, my old job called and asked me to come back. After some negotiation, I returned to the Office of the Speaker of the Senate on February 4th. At the same time, I began training for the next big challenge: the Ottawa Marathon.

Between Parliament Hill hours and the time suck that is marathon training, the blogging fell to the back burner.

Training for the marathon was gruelling. For those outside the Ottawa area, it was a really long winter this year. We didn’t get consistent spring weather until the beginning of May. There would be a Sunday here or there where I could break out the shorts, but most runs involved three layers into late April and some of those that didn’t were only because I was an idiot when I packed my bag in the morning.

Many of the evening runs were in inclement weather. Snow, freezing rain, normal rain, high winds. Everything but calm. Some runs had us jumping over snow drifts and puddles. We’d call these runs “character builders”. By the end, I was hoping the character I was building was Destro so I could build a weather machine. Needless to say, I’m cured of any desire of doing a Spartan Race or a Tough Mudder. Getting to the start line of this year’s marathon had enough physical obstacles to scratch that itch.

For 16 weeks, I managed to stay mostly healthy (had a bout of the flu which sidelined me for a weekend when we started to taper down) and injury free. I paced the 4:15 finish group. Most nights it was just a half dozen, much smaller group than my 2 hr half marathon groups. Some nights it was so small, I’d run with the 4 hr group.

I probably stayed in my Brooks Pure Cadence shoes too long before I replaced them with the latest version. My ankles were killing me the morning after my runs. Luckily, Adidas Boost had a launch event at the Slater St. Running Room. I got to take a pair on a full run, it was hills night and we were doing 8 that evening. The next morning, for the first time in two months, I felt relatively well. I tried them again that evening on an 8K steady run. Friday morning, felt great. Friday afternoon, bought a pair. The last pair of men’s 10.5s of the promotional inventory, meaning the last of the size until the shoes officially launched in June.

Race day came and you couldn’t have asked for better weather for a first time race. It was overcast and in the high teens for most of the morning. It was so cool, many of the runners who had done the previous year’s Army Run wore the thin white jackets they gave the finishers instead of solar blankets. They were pretty handy as throw away starter jackets on a cool morning. Wish I had thought of that. I didn’t bother bringing anything that I couldn’t bring on the course. The post race plan was to meet Kalin, who at the last minute decided to run the half marathon (and did a personal best … my girlfriend is awesome), at the aboriginal veterans statue and get back to my place. Downtown on race day is a bonkers sea of humanity with a combined 16,000 runners in along with all the volunteers and the people there to cheer us on.

Any worries I had a about Boston scaring off spectators were quickly abated. If anything, there were more. Even the desolate stretch of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway where there was literally no one cheering during my last two half marathons had people cheering us on.

Like my last race, I had my playlist ready. This time, I intentionally put it on shuffle. The race was going to take as long as it was going to take and there was no point in using songs as benchmarks. I hadn’t actually run a full 42.2 k before. The furthest the Running Room’s training program takes you is 32k. You do it once, taper a bit, and then go back up to 32k before tapering down for race day. Since it was my first run that long, I just filled up my playlist with 4 hours, 20 mins of music and hoped I wouldn’t hear a song twice.

As if by fate, the song that shuffled on as the 32K marker came into sight …. a Shooter Jennings cover of Hank Williams Sr.’s “I’m so lonely I could die”. I have no clue how that even got on my iPhone, more or less my marathon playlist. Most. Depressing. Song. Ever. It’s also probably the worst possible song as you start to cross the distance threshold of your longest distance ever.

Needless to say, it took me out of my race mindset for a minute while I fiddled to skip it. I tripped to use Siri to skip it with a voice command, but this genius decided it might be a good idea to run with the iPhone in airplane mode and Siri is useless if she isn’t connected to the Internet. With a couple of button pushes and swipes, Shooter was shot and replaced by Eminem’s “Won’t back down”.

With that crisis solved, it was time to finish the race. Having passed the 32K mark, my brain reorientated itself to see the distance markers as a de facto countdown. 32K wasn’t 32K. It was 10K left.

As the last ten kilometres snaked through Rockcliffer, Beechwood, and New Edinburgh back to the downtown, the crowds got thicker. As we crossed Rideau St. onto Colonel By for the home stretch to the finish line, the cheers grew louder. The entrance to Colonel By reminded me of the the entrance to a stadium. It was time time to kick it into high gear.

After my last walk break, I gradually increased my pace. It was around 4min/k for the last couple hundred metres. I looked up at the finish line as I crossed. The clock read 4:14, already below my goal. My chip time: 4:11.

20x30-OTDA4025

A friend would later ask me what I thought as I crossed the finish line. Given the long journey from obesity to Marathon Man, was it emotional? Did I think back on all that I had accomplished? Did I feel triumphant? Nostalgic?

My response:  Thank God, it’s over.

I made it through the recovery area gauntlet, grabbing whatever freebies were on offer. Just after getting my finisher’s medal, I ran into Marina, Slater St. Running Room’s unofficial den mother, who was volunteering handing out medals. She gave me a huge, and well needed hug.  I made my way to the aboriginal veterans statue to wait for Kalin. Since the half marathon is a much, much larger event, they have a staggered start and send the runners out in waves. This year it was three waves. I have to admit to being a worried boyfriend. Kalin only decided to do this race a few days earlier. My worry soon turned to relief as she emerged from the recovery area with one of the biggest smile’s on her face that I had ever seen. As we held each other, I asked how she felt. “Great,” she replied. “I PB’d.” Despite not race training, she did, however, go to Greco as often as she could and had greatly improved her strength and endurance. It paid off. She would tell me that as she was hitting the 20K mark, she broke out in tears. The good ones, though. A year earlier, she ran her first post-cancer 5K. Now she was finishing a half marathon and feeling great. She realized this is what healthy felt like and was overcome with joy.

Like I said before, my girlfriend is awesome.

With that challenge done, it’s onto the new adventure. With my contract with the Speaker’s Office completed on June 28th, I’ve moved back to Fredericton to join my father’s firm. It’s the end of my first week here. In the coming weeks, I’ll have to find a new gym and get my half marathon training for the Army Run going in earnest. Going to miss the gang at Greco and Slater St., but seven months of no employment and living off savings and credit cards takes a while to recover from. It was time for a change from contract to contract living.

Don’t worry, Kalin and I are still together. I count myself lucky to have found a girl from my hometown, even if we met in Ottawa. We both want to eventually settle here, so we see my move as serving as the advance guard. We already have the visits planned up to the end of the end of the year.

I’ll keep you posted on how things are going from Freddy Beach, but in the meantime …

Allons-y!

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Hello 2013. Prepare to be conquered.

So this happened on Thursday.

Globe and Mail, January 10, 2013, P. L6

Globe and Mail, January 10, 2013, P. L6

It’s been an interesting journey for my story. It started as a private journal to my friends and family and a way to keep myself accountable as I went on my journey. Now it’s a public tale on this blog that has been highlighted in the Running Room Magazine and now the Globe and Mail. It’s enough to give one a swelled head.

Nature keeps me humble, though. More accurately, nature keeps humbling me. It’s winter in Ottawa where most days just leaving my apartment seems like an act of defiance to spite the ancient gods. Even a mild day will make for a slippery morning as the thaw refreezes overnight. If I get a swelled head, it’s probably a concussion from slipping on that ice. In fact, after somehow managing to go fall free on a nice 6K run Wednesday night, I did a pretty epic assplant (or, as I like to call it, a “reverse burpee”) on Sparks St. on my walk to Greco the following morning. Not only did I not bang my head, miraculously, I somehow managed to not spill my coffee.

Winning.

Nature was particularly humbling the last few weeks. While I was home for Christmas, we had three snowstorms averaging 30-40 cm a dumping. I managed to get out with the Fredericton Running Room for a 14k LSD. It was supposed to be 16K that week, but windchill brought the perceived temperature down past -20 so the run leader planned a slightly shorter route. Despite having warm clothes to change into afterwards, plenty of hot liquids, and a bite to eat, I don’t think I got warm again until I wrapped myself up in bed that night.

Mother Nature also threw our New Year’s Eve plans in the scrap heap. The original plan was to fly back to Ottawa on the 30th so we could make it back in time for the Resolution Run on New Year’s Eve and attend the Hogmanay at City Hall after the run.

Neither was to be. We woke up that Sunday to a snowstorm. Our flight out of Fredericton was delayed and eventually cancelled. Since the delay already meant I would miss my Montreal connection, I attempted to rebook. As you can guess, Air Canada’s toll free number was busy. I selected the call back option and tried to do it online. The rebooking tools on the website were seemingly turned off when Kalin tried to use the website. Since my father bought my ticket using AMEX points, I had to go through them to make any changes.  That was fine by me. They could stay on hold with Air Canada.

This is what we woke up to in the Fredericton area on the 30th. When I went to bed the night before, the pile of snow on the table was half that size.

This is what we woke up to in the Fredericton area on the 30th. When I went to bed the night before, the pile of snow on the table was half that size.

After a couple of hours, we managed to get re-booked on the same flights to Montreal and on to Ottawa the next day. Unfortunately, it meant we would not be on the ground in Ottawa until 11:30 … pm. Yep, no Resolution Run. No Hogmanay. I called the Bank St. store to let them know and get them to set aside our kits so we could pick them up when we got home. Even if we couldn’t run the race, we’d collect the swag (in this case, jackets).

The evening after ... digging out.

The evening after … digging out.

On the plus side, an extra day in Fredericton meant I got to spend more time with my nephews and play their favourite game: beat the crap out of Uncle Michael.

Don't let the cuteness fool you.  They're ruthless little animals.

Don’t let the cuteness fool you. They’re ruthless little animals.

They usually lose, but this Christmas was more challenging. My sister enrolled her kids in Tae Kwon Do. When they got super excited, they had to be reminded to keep the kicks and punches stay in the dojo or Santa would repossess their gifts. Some day they may actually land a hit, until then we’ll just keep playing.

See, I told you so.

See, I told you so.

Kalin and I made it to Montreal to have a New Year’s Eve dinner at Moe’s, home of the most expensive Creemore beer ever, $11.

$11 for friggin' Creemore? And I thought Labatt's selling Keith's as "premium" beer west of New Brunswick was a joke.

$11 for friggin’ Creemore? And I thought Labatt’s selling Keith’s as “premium” beer west of New Brunswick was a joke.

Pretty much everything in the airport closed early because of New Year’s Eve. The worst was that both Starbucks and Tim’s closed at 8:30. We even watched them pour perfectly sellable coffee out as they informed us they wouldn’t sell us said product.  The Air Canada-run cafe by our gate was open until 9, and I managed to get a cup of coffee for $3. That’s $3 for regular drip coffee, not some fancy drink ending with the syllable “-cinno”. Regular coffee. We hunkered down by our gate and watched some Netflix over the airport WiFi.

Our plane to Ottawa arrived and everyone was overjoyed to hear our pilot say to the gate agent, “I want to be ready to board in three minutes!” as he went for a quick trip to the men’s room.

We made it back to town around 11:30. We rang in the new year in the back of our cab on our way to the downtown. We even saw a lone firework as we drove down Greenfields Dr. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. So long as I with Kalin, that evening would be special.

The next morning, I finally unpacked to make sure the spoils of a trip to New Brunswick arrived intact.

Maritimes, you'll never be far from my heart, or my liver.

Maritimes, you’ll never be far from my heart, or my liver.

Lest you think all that was for me, the Sussex was for a friend of ours, Liesa, the waitress at Mello’s who is also from Fredericton; and half the beer was for Christian. He came to pick it up the following Sunday and joined us for the run club that morning, which for the half marathon clinic was supposed to be an 18K LSD run.

It had snowed overnight and was still snowing that morning. With the usual pace leaders not available that morning, I was asked to co-lead the  2 hr pace group. Oh, I led them. I led them barely cleared trails and roads. I led them up slippery hills. It was a herculean effort to keep at slower end of the pace range for a 2 hr pace group, but we made it. It pretty much wiped me out for the day, though.

Winter here is a no-win situation. If it’s mild, it’s either snowing or thawing during the day only to freeze again at night. If there’s wind, a little cold becomes freeze your face off cold.

Yet, somehow, we endure. Nature may humble us, but it doesn’t destroy us. Winter comes every year and we endure its three months of ritual humiliation. Such is life. We train in whatever life throws at us so we can race in whatever life throws at us. The year starts off trying to conquer us, but, in the end, we conquer it.

Allons-y!

Identity

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.

Allons-y!

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.

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.

Allons-y!

Who are you cheating?

Sorry for the lack of a post last week. I kind of went on a bender. Not a drink- yourself-to-death-Nicholas-Cage-Leaving-Las-Vegas kind of bender, but a bit of a bender nonetheless. It was my birthday on the 14th and there were a few events as part of the weekend. It was a mini-milestone,35 years, so a maxi-weekend was in order. Saturday, there was the Brewery Market in Hintonburg. It was a great event. Kalin and I met up with our friends and enjoyed pints of local beer … for over six hours. Sunday, my actual birthday, was the traditional dinner at the Highlander. As usual, a great time was had by all. Monday, Kalin and I had dinner with a few of my friends who couldn’t make it Sunday. Tuesday, while not an official birthday event, was the monthly Mill St. Tweet Up. It was a great end to four days of fun.

I’ve been thinking about the nature of cheating again. Once again, it’s the Lance Armstrong case that has me thinking about it. It’s not Lance, specifically, that has me looking at the bigger picture but that entire era of professional cycling. Earlier this week, the UCI accepted the USADA report and stripped Lance of his Tour du France titles. Despite promising defiance, Lance, himself, removed reference to his Tour victories from his Twitter bio.

A footnote to this whole affair is the UCI, in stripping Lance of his titles, decided to do what the Grammy Awards and many other music industry awards did when confronted by the Milli Vanilli controversy and elected not to award them to the best finisher who didn’t dope.

Yes, I just compared Lance Armstrong to Milli Vanilli. I’m sorry if I insulted the talented vocalist who actually sang those songs.

If you think they did this because they couldn’t find a finisher who didn’t dope, you’re probably right. Most of the competitors who finished second and third behind Lance have already had those titles revoked for positive drug tests. Since so much time has passed, verifying the blood sample of the guy who in came in 38th in 1999 is just too difficult. The cleanest finisher probably finished so far back he didn’t actually have to provide one.

For purposes of our discussion, here’s how the dictionary defines “cheat”:

cheat

verb (used with object)

1. to defraud; swindle: He cheated her out of her inheritance.
2. to deceive; influence by fraud: He cheated us into believing him a hero.
3. to elude; deprive of something expected: He cheated the law by suicide.

verb (used without object)

4. to practice fraud or deceit: She cheats without regrets.
5. to violate rules or regulations: He cheats at cards.
6. to take an examination or test in a dishonest way, as by improper access to answer
7. Informal. to be sexually unfaithful (often followed by on ):Her husband knew she had been cheating all along. He cheated on his wife.

 

Lance certainly cheated in pretty much every sense of the word. There were long standing rules against what he did and he did it anyway.

 

However …

 

Everyone else did, too. It was the dirtiest era of a dirty sport. Yes, the UCI had rules against performance enhancing drugs, but did a pretty piss poor job at enforcing them. Laws without the promulgation of force have no effect. I think Aquinas said that.

 

Most sport federations are often behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to doping and testing techniques are often catching up to the drugs they’re testing for. There’s a reason why samples are kept for years. It’s so they can be examined as the testing techniques catch up to the masking techniques hiding the drugs. They’re even worried about genetic enhancements.

With hero after hero being taken down by testing agencies, we’ve become socially conditioned to not believe in human greatness in athletics until some drug test confirms it. Look at the reaction to the gold medal swim Ye Shewan did in London this summer. Even one of the top people in the IOC’s anti-doping agency said the obsession with doping was detracting from the majesty of sport.

 

No offense, bud, but when your old boss, Dick Pound, goes around saying things like only 10% of dopers ever get caught and can’t open his mouth without levelling an allegation, you can forgive us if our default mood is skeptical. You still can’t differentiate some illegal drugs from Propecia, a legal prescription drug to counter baldness.

 

I was a bit of a witness to this in my last year as a fatty. I was back in New Brunswick to work a number of events that my boss was attending. The biggest was the opening ceremonies of the IAAF Junior Track and Field Championships. Track and Field geeks can correct me if I’m wrong about this, but this the age group prior to when atheletes would be able to qualify for the Olympics. I think the upper end of the age limit might have been 16. Beautiful opening in Moncton’s new stadium. There was even a girls race as part of the ceremony. After it was concluded, the winners were taken backstage and the performances continued. The ceremony ended with the medal presentation for the race. Why the downtime between the end of the race and the presentation? The winners, and a couple of randomly selected athletes, had been taken to a room and had urine and sweat tests administered.

 

That’s how deep-seated the suspicion upon athletes has become; they’re testing teenagers at the equivalent of the world’s biggest high school track meet.

 

Maybe sports should give up the ghost on enforcing prohibitions on performance enhancement and just go to an all-doped format like SNL did in the 1980s (Unfortunately NBC Universal is pretty good about keeping its content off YouTube, so I can’t find a region unrestricted clip. Trust me, kids, it’s hilarious). If we’re going to treat athletes, pro and amateur alike, as dopers until proven clean, maybe we should just let them dope. After all, if everyone does it, it’s not really cheating.

 

It’s not cheating, unless you’re the corporate sponsor of the one honest athlete of the games.

 

Oh, you thought this was about athletes’ safety and the purity of sport, didn’t you?

 

Before they dropped his ass, when was the last time you saw Lance cycling without the Nike logo on his uniform? The companies that sponsor events and atheletes have a vested interest in two things: 1) their guy winning, 2) their guy winning in such a way he doesn’t drop dead at the finish line. Dead atheletes make horrible spokespeople. Same with ‘roid rage cases. Sponsors want to see their athletes’ photo on a box of Wheaties, not a mug shot on the Smoking Gun. There have been plenty of cases where sponsors have been culpable in their athlete’s doping, and the bad publicity is enough to drive share prices into the toilet.

 

For those of us that compete in sports for the fun of it, there’s no rationale for this kind of cheating. First, it’s expensive. There’s a reason why sponsored athletes engage in this type of cheating. They can afford it. If athletes lived off winnings alone, they’d probably take home less after expenses than you and I do. For people like us who do a couple of events a year, the payday just isn’t there.

 

It’s harmful. One of the side effects of some performance enhancement drugs is shrunken testicles. Given that Lance already lost one to cancer, you’d think he’d be concerend about the viability of the other one. Nope. The desire to win trumps all. My desire to one day have a family trumps my desire to cross a finish line first.

 

For those of us who are on that weightloss journey, cheating means departing from the nutrition plan or slacking off on the exerices. In that instance, you are truly cheating yourself. I know. Remember, I was there. Every now and then I couldn’t resist and indulged a little bit. My usual nemesis was movie theatre popcorn. There were also a few special events where I didn’t have good options available or just plain indulged. Each time, the consequence was that I was up a pound or two. That was a pound or two I had to lose before I could post a net loss for the week. I had to discipline myself to think that every time I weighed in up a pound it would be another session before I reached my goal. Those additional sessions cost me money. Frequent readers will know while I don’t mind splashing out money, I do mind not getting the value for the expenditure. Only I could control the value I got from my sessions, so it was up to me to be disciplined.

 

Shortcuts didn’t help much, either. One fat burner supplement taught me a valuable lesson in reading labels.

 

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or amateur. There are rules in life, written and unwritten, enforced by a series of consequences and rewards. I think we’ve all learned in the last few weeks the answer to the question, “Who exactly are you cheating?” In the end, it’s yourself.

 

Allons-y!

 

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.

Allons-y!

Once more unto the breach

Best rally speech ever. If plays were rap battles, Henry V is the one where Shakespeare drops the mike afterwards.

Speaking of Shakespeare and rap battles:

It’s time for the Army Run. I really enjoyed the 5K last year. It’s a great event for a great cause, our wounded troops. Proceeds go to Soldier On and the Military Families Fund. If you would like to donate, you can click here.

I’ve always admired our soldiers. My grandfathers had both served in World War II. I didn’t know Tom Read Sr.; he succumbed to cancer when I was just a couple of months old. He served in the home guard and remained on base in Sydney. My mother’s father, Donald MacEachern, was a combat engineer and served in Europe. I’ve mentioned before that he didn’t talk much about the war. None of his generation did. At least in front of the kids and, later, grandkids. Their wives forbade it. Fittingly, the only story he ever told us was the day he was wounded. That story he even saved until years after Grammie Ellen had passed away. He would carry a physical reminder of the war for the rest of his life.

Growing up minutes from CFB Gagetown, you get to know a lot of people in the Canadian Forces.   When I volunteered with St. John Ambulance, I got to work with many of the base’s medics. I always admired their dedication to their brothers-in-arms and their community. My cousin, Read Coleman, also served in the CF and did a tour in Afghanistan. I’ve had a number of friends who did tours in Afghanistan. I thank God on a routine basis that they made it back alive and unharmed. Unfortunately, I can’t say that for that for their brothers-in-arms.

It’s for them I’ll be running.

I decided years ago that I couldn’t do what they do. Part of that was my size and overall lack of fitness. My public service would be through politics.

Before you can run the race, though, you have to train. It was the last week of our clinic which means the runs were at race pace.  Race pace runs can be a real confidence booster the week before the run. They can also provide a moment of reckoning. Thankfully, my runs were more confidence boosting than reckoning.

Sunday was nice and cool for a quick 6 km up and down the canal. The group was a little fast. With the faster short runs, it’s tough to keep the group together. The clinic gathered for an end of clinic brunch afterwards. It was nice to chill out and relax with the gang. It was even better when the clock struck 11 and we could order beer. It gave me a chance to buy one of my runners a beer to pay him back for one he paid for at Mill St. back in August.

Tuesday went long. The clinic topic was race day preparation. There’s always a lot of questions from people who are running the race for the first time. A lot could be answered by simply going to the website, but it was pretty obvious that there were a lot of nervous runners in the room. Just wait until they have to jump over the pit of starving velociraptors! We didn’t get out for the run until 7:15 pm. This time of year, it’s dark rather early and we had 10k to run. We banged it out like champs, but it made for a long-ass day.

Wednesday was another 6K at race pace and our last run night before race day. It was a larger group than usual. I even got to run with a friend from NB who was in town for business. Like Sunday, it was fast. Most of my group kept up. The few that fell behind were well within the normal range for a 2H finish. I know they’ll well on race day.

As we ramp up for race day, I got a lesson in the need for proper nutrition. One of my runners told me she wasn’t feeling well since we hit the 20K mark in distance two Sundays earlier. She was feeling sluggish and tired like she was running out of gas. I asked what she was eating and it seemed like okay food. Then I asked how much and how often. That’s when we hit the target. Her portions seemed rather small (I can never really tell though when it comes to vegetarian meals how many legumes equals a proper protein serving) and she was only eating three times day. On run nights, her last meal might be at lunch. I suggested she eat five times, with little mini-meals as snacks. Hopefully we caught that in time she can enjoy the race and get a result she trained for.

I’m also tapering this week which means cutting out the cross training. Translation: no Greco this week. I’m also taking next week off to recover. I’ll be hitting my anniversary during my recovery period. Not sure what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll catch a movie … on cheap night. Haven’t had a Tuesday night free since February.

Looks like it’s going to be mostly sunny with slight chance of showers for race day. All I can say now is: bring it. I’m going to have a good run on Sunday and hope the folks I trained with these last few do so as well.

Allons-y!

Never Alone

One week before showtime!

We finished speed training this week, which marks the second-to-last phase of the half marathon clinic. Twitter followers already know of my Garmin fail at the end of the workout so no link to the activity report. Lesson learned: the seven day period you’re doing a combined 38K  (20K LSD, 6K Tempo, 12K speed training) is probably the week you should not rely on a single battery charge.

D’oh!

It’s probably for the best. I can’t remember if I had remembered to pause it when I had to go … umm … err… “find a golf ball” in the woods after the first 1 mile repeat. I thought I left my “golf balls” back at the “pro shop”, but it was pretty apparent my “golf bag” was full and wasn’t going to wait until we were finished “our round”.

Wow, that’s more about golf than I ever want to write about.

I tend to wax nostalgic towards the end of clinics. You don’t spend training with the same people three times a week for 17 weeks (or longer for the repeat offenders) without building a few bonds. Every pace group is different and they’re usually quite fun. There’s always a few rabbits, but that usually works itself out. With just a few practice runs left, looks like everyone in my group is going to make it to the start line (knock on wood).

It’s important to remember while we are on our own on race day, the race is not a solitary experience. Among the thousands running with us are the friends we’ve trained with. During race weekend, I probably spotted and managed to say a quick hello to most of my pace group from that clinic. There’s also the friends cheering along the sidelines as well as the ones at home checking Facebook and Twitter for that ever important finish result.

There’s also the people we do our “other” training with. Like most runners, I cross train. Regular readers will know that I currently do my cross training at the Greco on Sparks St. I certainly wouldn’t have made it this far without them. Going to the early morning classes gave me an excuse to drag my ass out of bed in the morning four days a week while I was unemployed. Now waking up at 7 for the 8 pm class seems like sleeping in. There’s a pretty good crew of regulars there for the morning workouts. Sometimes we’ll tell the folks coming in for the 8 am class what they’re in for, especially the bonus rounds, only to have the trainers change it up a bit. We’ll never embellish, though. If anything, we undersell the workout to lull them into a false sense of security (I think they know better by now).

Unfortunately, one of the guys is leaving to go backpacking for a few months through Asia. Since this morning was my last workout for a couple of weeks (usually take two weeks off to taper then recover for the race), he’ll be gone by the time I get back. Wish him the best and hope to see him in the new year when he’s back.

This run will also be special in another way. It’s the week of my one year anniversary of reaching my goal weight. Who would have thought when I posted my first note about my weightloss in January of last year that I would have made it to my goal, exceeded it and maintained a healthy lifestyle?

I didn’t.

Truthfully, there was a lot of upfront trepadation and it took a few weeks of settling into my new routine of morning workouts and following the nutrition plan before I had the confidence in myself to know I could do it.

I’ve said it before, I wouldn’t have made it without my support system, my friends and family.

Whether it was lifting the weights at the gym or running a race, I was never alone.

Surround yourself with your friends on your journey and neither will you. 

Allons-y!

Motivation

Hey, remember me?

I’m back.

Yeah, it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote anything substantial. While Lance Armstrong’s cop-out did throw me for a creative loop a couple weeks ago, I was just plain busy the last couple of weeks. While I haven’t had an actual vacation this year (no, unemployment doesn’t count as vacation), it seemed like a good time to take a little vacay from the blog.

There’s quite a bit coming up for me. The Army Run is fast approaching. The following week will be the one year anniversary of reaching my weight loss goal. I have to admit that I have not stepped on the scale in what seems like forever. The clothes I bought last year still fit. If anything, they’ve gotten looser.

With the Army Run coming up, training is ramping up. We’re on the second week of speed work. As before, we run to the track at Immaculata High School and do 1-mile repeats on their outdoor track. It makes for a bit more than 11 km in total distance for the night. My legs don’t seem as sore the next morning as when we do hills. It’s probably because it’s easier on the legs to run 5:15 on a flat track than whatever pace we ran (I was a little faster than tempo) up the hills.

As usual, the long runs are getting longer. I actually like it when we get into the double-digits on LSD runs. It seems like the longer the runs, the more we use the trails instead of the city streets. That means less waiting for traffic lights, the bane of the runner.

Thankfully, the heatwave that hit Ontario this summer has broken. Two Sundays ago we did a  great 18K run that again took us through the conservation area and around McKay Lake. Unfortunately, the humidity made a return appearance that morning. Most of my runners made it through, but I noticed it was bad enough that some of the marathon runners were ending their runs early (they were doing 28k).

Last Sunday, we had a nice and cool run along the Rideau River until it met the canal, where we headed up to Little Italy (my old neighbourhood) and through town until we were back on the trail, this time along the Ottawa River.

As we ran back to the store, the trail took us past the hill at Fleet St., the scene of most of our hill training. As we approached, I shouted, “Okay, ten hill repeats!”

No one gets my sense of humour.

One of the questions I’ve been getting lately is what keeps me motivated? It’s been almost a year and as time and distance pass, it’s easy to slack off and regress. Many do. So what keeps me going?

I like beer. It makes me a jolly good fellow.  I like food, too. The greasy shit I used to eat pretty much churns my stomach now. I still like to eat. I know if I want to have beer or a meal out, I have to earn it. Since most of the meals I don’t make myself are post-run meals, I think I earn them. I also have healthier take out meals than I used to. I am still very capable of making very stupid choices when I’m coming home late and occassionally sin, but my morning workouts at Greco provides as good a penance for food sins as church does for the other ones.

I’m a pretty goal oriented person. I think spending most of your adult life in univeristy meeting assignment deadlines does that to a person. The Running Room’s programs, with their weekly schedule of runs, does a good job of setting up daily and weekly goals to get me through to my larger goals. Videogame makers created achievements/trophies/whatever Wii calls them to draw in goal whores like me. Since I pretty much use my XBox as a DVD player during the non-winter months and as a replacement for my paintball addiction during the frozen months, the whole affirmation junkie scene never drove my activity. In fact, I’ve never actually played any of my game’s online multiplayer modes.

Races provide me with the medium-term goals that I need to motivate me to lace up the runners every Sunday morning. My performance goal for Army Run is to simply repeat Ottawa Race Weekend with a sub 2 hour finish.

I can be a pretty competitive person when I want to be. Every hero needs a villian. Batman needs the Joker. The Doctor needs the Master. My Master is…

Fat Michael

I wasn’t unhappy when I was fat, but I wasn’t happy either. Like a pig that rolls around in his own excrement, I assumed I was happy from lack of knowledge of the alternative. Now that I know the difference, I’m not going back.

Remember, no Algernons here.

Just have to make sure I don’t become a total prick like Charley, too.

For that, I have my friends to help me on my way. They lift me up when I’m down and give me the swift kick in the arse I deserve when I get too high on my horse. I’ve said it often, but it bears repeating. Iwouldn’t be here without them and the friends I’ve made along the way.

Allons-y!

Responsibility

I was going to leave the Olympics behind and write about something else this week.

This morning, though, I read this article and had another idea.  It’s actually a recurring theme of mine: personal responsibility. For those that don’t want bother to click the link, it’s an interview with Jared Connaugthon, the Canadian Olympian who inadvertantly left his lane for a few steps in the 4×100 relay and turned a bronze medal finish into a disqualification.  My own thoughts watching that race was something akin to “Here we ago again. Another rule that was barely enforced in qualification heats is suddenly Gospel in the finals.”

Say what you will about that night, but you have to admire that Jared’s first instinct wasn’t to moan or bellyache about the uneven application of the rules but to man up and take ownershio and responsibility for his mistake. Perhaps it’s telling of our modern society without shame or guilt that the simple act of saying, “I made a mistake”, has become a testament to character.

Lord knows uneven judging seemed like it was going on like mad in London. I tried to re-find an article I read on some of the more egregrious facepalms in officiating over the last couple of weeks, but gave up when “london 2012 officiating mistakes” garnered 10,800 hits.  Who would have thought that boxing would be the new figure skating? Any large, global event is going to seem to have a disproportionate amount of lousy refs and officials. Whether they are actually worse than usual or not  is almost irrelevant. With the magnifying glass of the worldwide media at every event, one mistake will inevietably be blown up. That said, they probably should be. A lousy official on the world stage, is probably a lousy official back home. A sport is only as good as the fair application of its rules.  The more lousy officials exposed and sent home in disgrace, the better.

I doubt London was worse than any previous Olympics. The Salt Lake City games brought us the scandal of fixed figure skating competitions, something that was well known in the sport for years. Any sport that is based on subjective judging is a prime candidate for corruption. That same games, in the women’s hockey final with the US, our  team faced such a disproportionate amount of penalty calls from an American ref that even the Americans in the arena began booing. In a scored sport, there’s a simple, yet not necessarily easy, solution to overcome one-sided officiating: score more than the other team.

As we saw our athletes not make it to the podium, or in some cases even the finish line, we often saw them take to post-event interviews, social media, etc., and apologize. It’s not that they actually did something wrong, but their own sense of disappointment is magnified a thousand fold by the feeling they had let down the hopes of their country. At  the root of their apology is taking responsibilty.

One of the reasons I find the trolls so nauseating is that I know as bad as the insults the armchair quarterbacks are tossing out, the atheletes are beating themselves up even more.   Making fun of pro athletes one thing. They’re paid by very rich companies to win games. Don’t like them, they probably didn’t hear you over the sound of their bling. Trolling our Olympians, though, has about as much class as making fun of the disabled. They’ll spend the next four years replaying those moments in their head and figuring out what do next time to get that medal around their neck. Trolls hit “post” on their 140 characters of mental masturbation and move on. With blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become a society of theFat Comic Shop Owners from the Simpsons.

Brain to mouth filter? In the age of social media, it’s the brain to keyboard filter.

When I decided to take responsibilty for my own situation and start this journey last year, there were several times I missed a personal goal. Whenever a weigh-in didn’t go as hoped, the light at the end of the tunnel moved back just ever so much. When my ref, the scale at the gym, gave me a lousy call, I didn’t call it out. I doubled down. I worked harder, ran faster, ate better. It took longer than planned, but I got there.

I’m still there and staying there. I like it there. As I’ve pretty much gone all in with running and moved into half-marathons, I still can’t slack off on the food now that I’m at a healthy weight. It’s not like I won’t burn off the occasional junk food with my training schedule, but I won’t have the adequate fuel to get through it. At this part of the  schedule, it’s pretty typical for me to burn about 1200+ calories on a Sunday long run. My breakfast will be a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, almonds and some berries. I’ll have some electrolytes in my water and take some energy gels starting around the 8k mark.  If that bowl of oatmeal is going to get me to the 8k mark, I’m going to need to eat properly the night before, too. That’s not to say I’m not going to have fun on a Saturday night, but I’m not going to be an idiot, either. One of the reasons I took on pace leading in my Running Room clinics is the additional responsibility to show up because others are depending on me to help them reach their goals.

My body isn’t a temple. It’s supercar. I need the high test gas, not regular.

Allons-y!