Tag Archives: healthy-living

The saga continues…

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

Kind of failed miserably on that one.

In a nutshell:

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

I learned a few lessons from solo training this summer:

1. I can do it.

2 Running alone sucks.

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

I think those are self-explanatory.

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

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

My promo photo

How’s that for an “after” photo?

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

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

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

IMG_0917

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

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

It’s time to start a new adventure.

Allons-y!

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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.

Allons-y!

In Praise of Food Porn (Reader Discretion Advised)

Soft focus.

Sensuous music.

Camera slowly pans along a woman’s toned arm as it strokes up and down. Flesh meets tempered German steel as it rhythmically slices a long … firm … carrot.

Did you think I was moonlighting as a Harlequin Romance novelist?

No, I haven’t gone all Fifty Shades of Grey and started writing suburban mommy porn. I am, however, writing about another form of pornography: food porn or, as the smart people who read Harper’s may know it as, gastroporn.

The main purveyor of food porn is, of course, the Food Network and it’s contemporaries. I first discovered pornography for fatties, as I called it when I was in the early stages of my weight loss last year, when I was living in Washington while at grad school.

More specifically, I discovered Giada:

When I came back to Canada and watched the Canadian version, I also discovered Laura, who happens to be from my home province of New Brunswick:

Besides the dishiness of the show hosts (NB: Kalin crushes on Mike Smith and Chuck Hughes), the real objects of desire in these programmes are the dishes they serve.

I love to cook. Robert Rodriguez likes to say, “Cooking is like fucking. You’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life, so you better be good at it.” My relationship with food was not always so … intimate.

In my previous (read: failed) attempts to lose weight, I saw food as the enemy to be conquered. My most successful attempt was the Slim Fast plan. I was never a sit down for breakfast type and the time zone differences between my office and my employer’s meant last minute stuff would often come up during my lunchtime. Replacing a couple of meals a day with pre-made shakes made sense (along with walking to work, 60-90 min in the gym, walk home, 60 min swim per day, 5 days a week).

Like many of my ideas, it was a good one at the time.

In the end, it was an awful one.

Unlike most dieters, I knew that a return to pre-diet form of eating would mean a return of my body’s pre-diet form. The adversarial mentality I had towards food would not necessarily wane, but complacency certainly set in during my grad school years. My sins have been detailed in previous posts and you can feel free to read those confessionals. Like the Romans of the ancient world, I let the barbarian hordes of bad-for-you food batter the gates of the city until they crashed in.

When it was time to get my life back under control, I was given a meal plan that was basically “3/7oz chicken/pork/fish/beef and veggies/salad” with minimal direction as to how to prepare these meals.

So right away I’m going to be eating more often and I have to figure out how I’m going to do this without getting bored. Boredom leads to complacency. Complacency leads to failure.

Enter food porn.

Bow chicka wow wow.

I would watch these temptresses prepare meals for their imaginary guests and wonder how I could stick my square peg in their round holes.

Umm

I meant to write: how I could make their dishes comply to my meal plan.

Yeah. That’s it.

Could I switch the white rice for brown? Sweet potato instead of white? Can I replace whole milk with skim? It stimulated the part of the brain that goes wild when faced with a complex scenario that I knew I, and only I, could figure out.

There were a few devils in the harem of angels. Paula Deen’s high calorie, fat-laden food is so beyond redemption, it gave her diabetes. In a perverse twist, she’s now being paid a mint to hawk her diabetes meds.

Brief aside: I grew up in the era of competing basketball shoes endorsed by pro-basketball players. I can understand people wanting to be like Mike. Who wouldn’t want to be like me? Competing endorsements of diabetes medication? Are diabetics going to start one upping each other as to whose brand of insulin is better: Paula Deen’s or Wilfrid Brimley’s? It’s like hockey players talking about erectile dysfunction drugs.

Oh wait. That happened.

I learned quite a bit through these experiments and have detailed some of the lessons learned in previous posts. Vicky and Kalin have been my unwitting test subjects. Since they’re still talking to me, I’m guessing I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed.

There’s a couple extra lessons learned I can share. You can make a dairy-based sauce with skim, 1%, or 2% milk instead of whole milk. I did this with a carbonara using whole wheat pasta, but it’s not going to hold up well as leftovers. The pasta will soak up the reduced dairy fat liquid overnight. Since my I started dating Kalin, the almond-crusted chicken has been taken out of the rotation. She’s allergic to nuts. Instead of going back to panko bread crumbs, we discovered whole wheat cracker crumbs made a better substitute. We got that from the Eat, Shrink and be Merry show.

As I get ready for my half marathon just a little over a week from now, nutrition will be the fuel that powers me along the route. I’ve trained hard to refine the machine that is my body, but without gas in the tank it will be all for naught.

I know I can do this. Last Sunday’s run was 20K LSD. At this point in the clinic, all the Running Room half marathon clinics run with the Slater St. clinic. There were a couple hundred people running from Slater St. on Sunday morning and it was, frankly, a bit of a gong show.  There were signs set up for the pace groups to line up in order, but there was no organization within the pace groups. Larger clinics had pace groups within pace groups, like a sizeable 2:07 pace group that managed to get to the front of the pack . There was also competition among pace leaders as to who was on first. This got complicated when walk breaks were being called early because the guy with the loudest voice and was upfront didn’t pause his Garmin while at traffic signals and others did. When the largest group stops running and starts walking everyone behind them starts walking too. This was a two and a half minute difference between the first walk breaks of the non-pausers and pausers.

This got old fast. I figured since most were running with their pace leaders, my group should have the option to run with theirs. I worked the line, pulling out members of my clinic, got us to the front and started running our run not someone else’s. Picked up a few gazelles from other clinics, too. We were a little fast for LSD pace, but were amongst the first 2 hour pacers to get back to the store. We’re going to have to run faster  on race day, but my group all still had fuel in their tanks to get that extra kilometre.

If Wednesday’s speed drills are any indication, my group will have no problem. They did their 1 mile repeats well faster than the prescribed 5:15 pace. Thankfully the weather for Wednesday was much better than last week. We’ll find out if they can keep it up as we move on to training at race pace on Tuesday.

With the training and nutrition balance seemingly struck, I’m sure I’ll reach my goals on Sunday. I wouldn’t have gotten here without the support of a lot of friends … and the occasional indulgence.

Allons-y!

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.

Allons-y!

And Happy Easter!