Tag Archives: Learn to Run

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.



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.


Warming Up

This weekend was an exercise in JFDI. A northern cold front blew into town and dropped the base temperature to -18 Celsius.  It was the coldest base temperature of the season. With a bit of wind, it dropped to -24 with the windchill on Sunday. While not as bad as my first Sunday run of the year, even for us Canucks, it’s the kind of weather that makes you want to stay inside.

Instead: JFDI (c)





And did I ever JFDI.

The low temperature and high wind made for some interesting runs this weekend.

That’s right, runs. Two run weekend.

Saturday was the Second Annual Beaver Tail Run. This was a social run organized by one of the runners from the Slater St. Running Room. Pretty simple premise: run 6 or 8K on the Rideau Canal, be back at the Rideau Locks end in time for the Beavertails huts to be open, have a beavertail.

Sounds simple enough. It was a fun little challenge. It was my first time actually running on the Canal. Yes, I wrote “on” the Canal. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/148754922

Running on a sheet of ice is it’s own special challenge. I don’t have Yak Trax or anything like that for ice running. The shoes are also nearing the end of their life expectancy and the treads are pretty flat. Amazingly, I did the 6K route without falling on my arse, although there were a few close calls. We got back to the locks as the Beavertails hut was opening. I went for chocolate hazelnut and promptly made a mess of myself.

Nom, nom, nom.

Seriously, is there anyway to eat one of those damn things without looking like a total slob afterwards?

Not so delicious was the brown water they sold me as hot chocolate. I guess there are some drawbacks to being the first customer int he morning.

The next morning was the regular Sunday practice run, a 7K LSD run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149090662

It was probably the first time I may have underdressed for a run. I used the Bank St. Sport 4’s Renovation Sale as the excuse to invest in some Suogi running gear. With 20% off the lowest marked price, meaning it was 20% off stuff already marked down for seasonal clearance, they had some really great deals. The weak link, however, is the outer shell. It’s a little thin for -24 and I could feel the cold penetrate it as I ran. Even though I could feel myself sweat under my gear, I never felt warmed up .

One lesson learned this weekend: bring a change of clothes to winter runs. Even if you don’t feel warmed up, your heart rate has accelerated, you have warmed up, you have sweat in your clothes. Once that heart rate gets back to its normal resting rate and your core body temperature drops, you will notice just how wet your inner layers are. With wet layers in severe cold, it will take forever for your body to properly regulate your core temperature back to normal.

I learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday. Between the winter coat and pants, headband, face guard, sunglasses and inner layers, I had dressed adequately for the run conditions.  I worked up a pretty good sweat and those inner layers got quite wet. I went for post-run coffee at Bridgehead and then walked home in the cold. Between the weather and wet inner layers, I was chilled to the bone by the time I got home. I stood in the shower for what seemed like forever on Saturday before I filled up the tub and allowed myself to soak. The pool at the building was closed for repairs, so soaking there and using the sauna was not an available option.

Apparently people who didn’t grow up near an ocean like their salt water swimming pools warm.


(Apparently there’s actually city rules at what temperature swimming pools in apartment buildings and hotels must be kept at. As if the city doesn’t have enough to do, like kicking smokers off patios and out of parks.)

Sunday, I packed a change of clothes. Pretty much shed every piece of gear for street clothes except my socks and sneakers. I even brought a spare jacket. I found the inside of  my winter running jacket gets quite damp and sometimes doesn’t fully dry the time I’m leaving for home. Not much point in dry inner layers if I’m going to toss on a wet shell. Just more clothes for the hamper when I get back to the apartment. Made for a much better post-run coffee and walk home.

Despite the frigid temperatures of the weekend, it was actually unseasonably warm this week.   A slight breeze on Tuesday meant it was a mere -3 for our clinic night run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149674315

Wednesday, despite some morning flurries, it was +2 by the time we had our practice run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149896518 It felt fantastic to run in warm weather again.

Yes, after last weekend, two degrees above zero is considered warm.

I actually saw a guy in shorts and a t-shirt walking down Bank St. That was a little much.

Maybe the Canadian groundhogs were right and spring is just around the corner?

Yeah, right.

The weekend forecast has some great mild temperatures in store for us here in Ottawa before going to back to seasonal temperatures. This week’s warmth will likely prove to be like the proverbial last dance at a strip club before last call. As soon as you let yourself think it can last, the song ends, the lights come on, you empty the last twenties from your wallet, and you’re thrown out into the night cold and alone.

Not that I know from experience. I only go to those places with friends.


Week 40 – Victory Lap

First, some apologies. I remained relatively silent on the ol’ social networks last week and when I was on, I was lying through my teeth (or fingers since it was in the written word) of my status or whereabouts. The reason last week’s post was in the middle of the week had little to do with reaching my weight goal (though that seemed as good an excuse as any) and more to do with the reason I wouldn’t be around on Friday. I was driving to New Brunswick to surprise my mother for her 60th birthday. A little hard to write and post while driving a Dodge Charger in the middle of Nowheresville, Quebec.

Fellow Whovians will remember the first rule: the Doctor lies.

And lie I did. Especially when I let it slip that I would be in New Brunswick on the weekend. I would recover by saying “New Brunswick? I meant New York. I was going shopping in upstate New York for their Columbus Day sales. You know I don’t have clothes that fit me anymore. I would have to leave New York at 4 to make that appointment. Freudian slip, I guess. You now where I want to be this weekend.” Matt Smith and David Tennant would have been proud.

Mom was none the wiser and genuinely surprised when I showed up at the front door Saturday night. My sister, in on the surprise, sent me a BBM from the party: “Mom’s telling everyone how you’re going to Syracuse.”

Thanks to those that helped keep my cover.

I think I finally learned the lessons from previous trips and did well on the nutrition side of things. Did have a Subway sandwich for the first time this year as lunch, but the lunch options where I stopped at Port Jolie were a Subway, Normadin, or Tim Horton’s. Normadin had a rather long line to be seated and I don’t like the sandwiches at Timmies’ since they stopped serving roast beef. Subway was the least bad option. Just a small steak and cheese on 9 grain bread. Managed to almost get through the whole order in my weak conversational French until a combination of being low on energy and a very fast-talking cashier forced a “Huh?” out of me. “For here or to go, Sir?” It’s time I can go a little easier on my food choices without considering that I have fallen off the wagon.

It was Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada. For any US readers, the celebration of Thanksgiving in October as a commemoration of Martin Frobisher’s 1578 exhibition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage made for a great laugh on How I Met Your Mother, but isn’t exactly true. The voyage is listed in Wikipedia, though, as part of the history of the holiday, so it must be true. I’m told Star Wars is a true story, too. We have a shorter growing season here in the north, so the harvest is earlier and therefore we made our statutory celebration of the harvest earlier. Every few years or so, it lands on my birthday. One year it landed on my 19th birthday. Back then every bar in the city was closed on statutory holidays. No free drinks on my first day of legal drinking for me 😦

Thanksgiving dinner meant a few deviations from the nutrition plan. Since I finished with Free Form Fitness, I’m not following their plan as strictly anymore. Don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the wagon. Although if you ran into me a the Boyce Farmer’s Market on Saturday you couldn’t be blamed for assuming otherwise. Once again, I indulged in old habits, but in my new ways.

I had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. For the first time in my adult years, I’m truly fit and healthy. I’m wearing clothes in sizes I haven’t worn since junior high. People I’ve known for years don’t recognize me. It’s fun to see the reactions of people when they clue in. Sometimes its even helpful when an old associate doesn’t recognize me.

I’m mostly thankful to my family and friends for their support during this journey. I certainly wouldn’t be here without them. There are two kinds of friends one keeps around: those that are good to you and those that are good for you. I’ve come to learn recently that just because one is the former does not necessarily mean they are the latter. Those that are the latter will likely include characteristics of the former. A friend that is good to you is not necessarily bad for you, but may be more reinforcing of your baser instincts. A friend that is good for you helps you become a better person. They see in you what you cannot see in yourself.

I am thankful that I have more of the latter than the former. The decision to go on this journey was by no means a natural one for me. I was quite content the way I was. Looking back, I was the proverbial pig living in the mud, content because it was all I knew. That self-deprecating sense of humour I mentioned in previous posts? A mere smokescreen in place of true self-esteem.

There’s quite a few I should name, so forgive me if this drones off like an Oscar speech. If I forget to name you before the orchestra plays me out, I’ll make up for it when next we meet in person. Since starting this journey and writing about it on Facebook and now WordPress and Twitter, I have received hundreds, maybe thousands, of comments. Your support has been instrumental in my success. Like the cheering section in the last kilometre of a race, your words of support have kept me going.

There’s a few friends out there who have been great examples as what one can achieve when one puts in the effort. Friends like Christina and Meghann, who I knew in high school or as undergrads, lost touch with only to be reunited over Facebook. Seeing how they transformed themselves made me realize when I started this that I could do it, too.

Very early on in this journey one of my best friends, Christian, he of Bald Guy Running and now Insightfully Bald, convinced me to train for the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend. He was going to slum it with the 5k (he previously did the half marathon for that event) to support his wife, Ramona. I’ve joked that he got me drunk one night and signed me up to the cult of the runner. The truth of the matter, though, is I thought completing a race would be a good intermediate goal. I was supposed to do cardio on my days I wasn’t working out with my trainer, so why not put that activity in the context of a goal that would serve my ultimate goals? He convinced me. I, in turn, talked our friend Michael Clements into doing it, too. Frequent readers will recall that I didn’t know that until he surprised me by showing up on race day with a bib.

Christian, channelling his inner Fred Durst before the Army Run. Next year, we're running the half-marathon together.

The 5k dare lead me to the Running Room for my first clinic, the Learn-to-Run 5K. After I completed that clinic, I was asked to be group leader for a combined 5k/10k clinic and, after that, asked to instruct a 5k clinic. Not bad for a guy who bought his first running shoes in February.

The person who really got the ball rolling though is my friend Vicky. She was the catalyst, the lynchpin that allowed all the ingredients to come together to make this happen, the lever that pried the immovable boulder to roll down down the mountain. Over dinner last December, just before our Christmas holidays, it was Vicky that suggested Free Form. I had just told her about my drop in suit size. She told me she was planning on trying it and suggested I check it out, too. It would further our friendship. Beginning a pattern that would recur throughout this journey, making life choices over food and drink, I said, “sure”. The rest is history.

Getting ready for the Army Run.

I’ve relied on Vicky a lot in this journey. She’s been there for most of the major milestones. She saw me off at the start line for Ottawa Race Weekend. We ran together for the Army Run. She even took me shopping for my first batch of new clothes to get me through the spring sitting. She was pretty astonished to find out not only pretty much everything I owned came from Moore’s, but I hadn’t even stepped foot in most of the stores in the Rideau Centre that didn’t have the word “apple” or “gamestop” in it’s name. I didn’t even know some of these stores actually sold men’s clothes.

The only time she judged me is when I tried something on that looked truly awful. Yes, I tried on some stuff that was truly awful. Not Herb Tarlek awful, but awful nonetheless. Thankfully, she has laughed with me instead of wretching at the utter ghastliness of my sense of modern fashion. I’ve appreciated her honesty, because this stuff isn’t cheap.

Everyone should find themselves a Christian and a Vicky. The funny thing is neither of them told me I should lose weight. They asked me to join them on their journeys. While I’ve written about my own journey, theirs are no less important to me.

You may have noticed a lot, and I mean a lot, of Doctor Who references in my blog posts. Pretty obvious it’s my favourite science fiction show, isn’t it. For those not familiar with the longest running TV show in the history of the medium, the Doctor is a Time Lord, a time traveller, who goes about time and space in ship that looks like a British police box. He frequently has a human companion, our entree into his world. The recurring theme of the show is being “bigger on the inside”. He crashes, always crashing, rarely landing smoothly, takes on a companion or two, makes them better over the course of a season or two and then leaves them behind to seek their own destiny.

I always thought I was the Doctor in my friends’ lives. Seems like I’ve come and gone just as frequently the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, DC is great, but it’s no Gallifrey. I can prattle incessantly. Sartorial choices come from a different era. Even have a piece of paper conferring the title of Doctor, just not the kind that actually helps people. Turns out, however, I was the companion. They made me bigger on the inside, or smaller on the outside, or … See what I was saying before about prattle?

They saw in me what I couldn’t see for myself: the man I could be. It just took me 9.5 months to dig that man out and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.

I hear the orchestra playing, so I will close by saying I have the best best friends in the world. While I gave thanks to them, all of them, this Thanksgiving, I will never be able to truly repay this debt of gratitude. I can only hope to be as supportive for them in their journeys as they were in mine.


Week 31 – Now what do I wear?

This week’s weigh in: 177 lbs

Weight Loss to date:  59 lbs

To Goal:  7 lbs


Once again, thanks for all the support over the last week .  I have had a lot of great responses since taking this journal public and have also discovered similar bloggers who are sharing their own stories of weight loss.  When I get a rainy day (summer is too short in Canada to spend a sunny day behind the laptop), I’ll add them to the blogroll so you can find them too.

While it’s just a pound this week, it’s a net of one pound.  I actually dropped four.  My misbehaviour on the weekend caused me to gain three pounds by the time I weighed in on Monday.  I had some drinks with the run clinic I just finished being a group leader for at a pub that did not have a very nutrition plan friendly menu.  Dropped two of the weekend sin pounds by Wednesday and two more between Wednesday and Friday. 

If you read my special post from Saturday, you know the charity pile is now in the hands of Moores for their suit drive and whatever charity owns the box on Isabella St.  I’m sure whoever eventually gets my clothes will put them to good use.  As I’ve written before, I owe so many friends and family a debt of gratitude that can never be repayed in full I think the best course of action is to pay it forward and let my success help someone else.  

There’s another angle as well.  I gave them away as partial punishment for my spendthrift ways.  For new readers who haven’t combed through the old entries yet, I normally spend money on three things:  food, gadgets, and clothes.  Of the three, the latter is the item I’ve been the most foolish with.  I actually had two dozen suits in that pile. 

I’m going to repeat that for the purpose of  emphasis:

I actually had two dozen – twenty-four – suits in that pile.

Barney Stinson has nothing on me.  I couldn’t believe that myself when we counted them at the store.  The reason for the accumulation is a lot simpler than one might think.  Before my weight loss, the only time I get rid of clothes is when they wear out. I may occassionaly give some stuff I really don’t need (like my big winter sweaters when I lived in DC) to charity to clear out closet space, but normally if it’s wearable it stays.  Having spent a few of the last five years in grad school, where the number of times I wore a suit could probably counted on one hand, there hasn’t been a lot of wear and tear.  My summer weight suits and separates also don’t get used much as there are few events once Parliament rises that would require me to wear one.

In many ways, my suit buying reflected my other appetite.  I don’t think I needed a single suit I bought in the last six months.   A couple wore out towards the end of the sitting spring 2010, but I certainly didn’t need to replace it with six suits.  It’s really no different than some of the stupid food choices I made in the past, where I would order a pizza when I could make a smaller, healthier one in half the time at a fraction of the cost.  I justified the suits with plenty of excuses: they were 2 for 1, I wear suits every day it’s like they won’t get used.  Not much different from the pizza order justification:  gotta eat tomorrow, I’ll use the leftover for lunch; it includes wings and pop for under $20, I can’t make that for that amount.  You get the picture.

The real stupid thing, though, was buying the three-pieces in December.  I had dropped enough weight to be down a suit size.  I didn’t know then I would hire a trainer and lose even more weight, but I should have at least held off on buying new clothes until after Christmas.  That was just plain stupid.  I looked damn good in those three-pieces, but it was still a stupid purchase.

New rule:  no clothing purchases over $100 without a friend present.  I trust sales people to make me look good, but, in the end, they’re on commission.  If they can’t convince me to part with my income, they don’t get theirs.  I need a second opinion to make sure there’s someone looking out for my interest, not theirs.

My closet now stands rather empty.  I have three suits I didn’t give away.  All were purchased in the month of May this year.  One is a Zara suit that I bought a couple of weeks after the first two (and a size smaller) and the other two are my Calvin Kleins I bought at Macy’s on my way out of DC after commencement.  Casual shirts outnumber dress shirts at ratio not seen since a mere 300 Spartans held off the Persian army of Xerxes the God King.

Need to make these last for another month or so.  I have a family wedding to go to in three weeks. I hope they still fit.

Starting a new charity pile, too.  This will actually be the charity suitcase.  This is mostly casual stuff and sweaters that are now too big and didn’t fit what Moore’s wanted.  I’m going to bring back to Fredericton on my way to that wedding in Cape Breton and let Dad and my brother-in-law fight over them.  The irony is these clothes are mostly Christmas/birthday/found a deal at Kohl’s in Florida presents from my parents and other family members. 

It’s almost like re-gifting, but without any guilt on my part.  They know they’re getting them for a good reason.  Maybe now they’ll start giving me non-gift card gifts again.  We decided after the disaster of two Christmas’ ago that presents would be mostly gift cards or consumables (booze).  Since I have to travel to get home and you never know what luggage restriction Air Canada is going to place on you until you check in, it’s pretty difficult to give me “stuff” to take home.  If I still owned a car and I was willing to do the drive from Ottawa to Fredericton in late December, it would be one story.  Since neither “if”s apply (the reason behind the latter I will save for my career as a paid humourist), the presents have to stay small.   

Disaster may be too strong a word to describe that Christmas.  My parents gave me some money to put toward some of my debt and a Moores gift card, but the two “items” they gave me – a couple of sweaters – were too big.  One item could be returned, but the other was bought in the US and would cost more to return than it was worth.  I left to return to Ottawa with the monetary gifts that year.

It was an honest mistake.  They felt miserable for it.  I felt like a shit for not liking either of their gifts, but there was no point in faking it.  They looked nice until I actually put them on.  I would have never worn them. 

The other side is, if my own parents are thinking I’m XXXL, maybe I should have taken that as a sign that I was too big and started this journey a year earlier.

In other news, my new run clinic is going well.  Since it’s a small group, I feel a little more comfortable with it being my first clinic as an instructor.  Actually have a metric assload of running this weekend.  Clinic night tonight.  The topic is running gear and the store manager covers it followed by the run.  Practice run Sunday morning. 

My next 5K race is then the same Sunday afternoon, the Fesenius Alive to Strive.  It’s at the Terry Fox athletic facility on Riverside Dr. here in Ottawa.  Hoping to get close to the 30 minute mark with this one.  Start time is at 2 pm.  I’ll probably be there around 1.  Anyone who wants to come to cheer me on is more than welcome.


Week 14 – I’m a bad boy

April 15, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 205 lbs

Weight loss to date:  31 lbs

To goal:  34 lbs

Thanks for your continued support.  Down another pound this week, but only a pound.

As usual, my own damn fault.

Decided to take my trainer’s advice and give up alcohol until I get below 200 lbs.  That lasted three days.  On the fourth day, yesterday, I sinned.  Big time.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I stuck with gin and soda, but I just had to have a scotch … or two … or three.  I’d like to blame the bartender for using too much water, but I’m still the idiot that ordered every drink.

As usual, time dust myself off and try again.   Take 2.

To quote Chumbawumba, I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You’re never going to keep me down.

I just quoted Chumbawumba.  Ugh.  I suppose better that than Lady Gaga.

Now on to the positive news.  The training for the 5 K is going well.  I’ve been using the Nike+ system with my iPod to track my runs, distance, pace, etc.  Had a great run with my personal trainer and a group he organized on Saturday and then the Running Room’s run club on Sunday.  Ran by myself on Tuesday morning along Strathchona Park.

For those unfamiliar, Strathcona Park runs along the Sandy Hill side of the Rideau River.  Tuesday morning was glorious.  Sunny but cool.  The sun was rising above the river, which itself was running quite high with the previous day’s rain and melting snow.  Managed to get a little under 4 K in from when when I left my building until I returned.  Haven’t figured out how to set up the iPod to do the run-walk intervals, so I was just guessing when two minutes were up when I checked.  Most times I ran a little longer.  It was good practice for Wednesday when we began 3 minute run, 1 minute walk intervals.

The Wednesday routine of beginning with my personal training session and ending with the running clinic is still making for one long ass day.  It’s showing the importance of planning out my meals.  When I get home, I pretty much have enough energy left to get my meals ready and then its off to bed.  Usually, I’ll have shrimp for lunch on Thursday because the preparation is as simple as placing the frozen shrimp in a container and let them thaw in the fridge overnight.  Normally, I cook two portions of whatever I’m going to have for dinner and save one for lunch to go with my salad.  Haven’t been so great at that this week.  Seems like I’ve been playing catch-up the second half of the week.

Decided to go and buy some new clothes this weekend.  Even my casual clothes are big to the point of discomfort.  Going to go easy and just get a few items and not going to pay full price for anything.  I figure that since I still have over 30 lbs to shed before I reach my goal, I may only get a single season out of anything I buy.  There’s no point doing too much, but I need a few things to feel comfortable in.  The funny thing about losing weight is that anything you gain in the looks department is offset by the slobbishness of wearing clothes that don’t fit right or at all.  I’ll probably be able to fund a trip around the world with all the airmiles I’m collecting replacing stuff.


Week 13 – This week 30, Next week halfway point

April 8, 2011

today’s weigh in –  206 lbs

Weight loss to date – 30 lbs

To goal – 33 lbs

Thanks for all the great comments and support from the previous entries.  For now, success has been a constant motivation, in and of itself, but as this journey continues slowdowns and setbacks will be inevietable.  Your support will be as essential to get me through the rough patches as it was to get me through the smooth ones.

As the title suggested, I reached another milestone this week.  A couple, actually.  The 30 lbs mark is the most obvious one, but there were a couple of others.

Those who saw Thursday morning’s status update know that the first batch of suits that I had Moore’s take the waists in are now too big for me.  It was a rather comical scene.  With the election on, the office dress code is business casual, but we were holding one of the few events we couldn’t cancel and I wanted  to wear a suit just in case I had to go in.  I buttoned my suspenders to my pants and pulled them on.

Unlike most people, I pull them up both legs at a time.  Deal with it.

As I’m tying my tie, I look down to see the waist of the pants hanging out … by a couple of inches.  Grabbed the next one in the closest.  Same.  Next one. Same. Finally one of my more recently altered suits fit.  Still big enough on me that I looked like a clown, but at least a well dressed clown.

I’m not going to bother seeing if they can be taken in any further.  Since I’m not having the jackets altered with the pants to save money, I’m just going to look goofier as I get smaller.  Even my dress shirts are big on me.  Regardless of the election results, Parliament will probably not sit again until June, at the earliest.  I already have some cheap suits on order so I should be able to get by until the fall before I start rebuilding my wardrobe.  Having these suits further altered seems rather pointless.  Into the charity bag, they go.

The other milestone is I ordered some new swimsuits.  The one I wear now is in good condition, but it’s getting too big.  By too big, I mean I’m having trouble keeping it around my waist while I’m actually swimming.  I swim after I do my cardio on the in-between days when I ‘m not with my personal trainer, about five times a week, so I beat the suits quite badly.  Sears had some on sale, so I figured it would be best to order more than one.  I now have two pairs of Speedos on the way.

No, not those kind of Speedos.  I’m in no danger of parading down a beach in a pair of walnut smugglers like a Quebecois retiree.  One pair is basically same boxer-style trunks I have now, except a size smaller. The other is a different style, skin tight with a shorter inseam.  Let’s call that pair … aspirational.

The training for the 5k continues at pace.  Doing 2  minute run, 1 minute walk sets.  Settling into a nice running pace.  Like most runners, I’m starting to hate the treadmill.  It feels weird now like I’m being propelled instead of doing the propelling.

Having my personal training session at 6:30 am and doing the Running Room program at 6:30 pm makes for one long ass day.  Having learned its a bad idea to eat before the run, I’ve modulated my feeding schedule on Wednesday so I won’t go into starvation mode by extending the time between meals.  Even with that adjustment, I need to grab a bite to eat almost immediately afterward or it might be 9 o’clock by the time I get home to cook something for myself.  Thankfully, there’s a nearby Subway where I can grab a salad with a double meat portion.

Like a lot of runners, I’m using my iPod when I run alone.  I’ve learned the hard way that my diverse music choices don’t necessarily make for great exercise music when I just put the pod on shuffle.  The programmers at Apple have also yet to take my suggestion of adding a time of year element to whatever program algorithim runs the shuffle function.  I love Christmas music … at Christmas time.  April, not so much.  (BTW, if you have the chance to catch the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Holiday Show, do it.)  I’ve done up a couple of playlists for a 30 minute run with a 5 minute cool-down:

Run 1:

  1. Agent Tex by Jeff Williams (from Episode Ten of the previous season of Red vs. Blue)
  2. Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J
  3. Mothership by Kid Beyond
  4. Cochise by Audioslave
  5. Lust for Life by Iggy Pop
  6. Suicidewinder by Ridley Bent
  7. Run this Town by Jay-Z

Cool down:

You are the Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne

Run 2:

  1. On to the Next One by Jay-Z
  2. Howlin’ for You by the Black Keys
  3. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant
  4. Flathead by the Fratellis
  5. Faint by Linkin Park
  6. Run On by Moby
  7. Deny by Default
  8. Run (I’m a Natural Disaster) by Gnarls Barkley
  9. Sydney Steel by John Campbelljohn
  10. Ten Million Slaves by Otis Taylor
  11. Passion of the Night by the Brian Setzer Orchestra

Cool down:

Amazing Grace by the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Mostly up tempo rock and hip hop with some blues mixed in.  There’s probably a few head scratchers there.  Agent Tex is four minute version of the score from this episode of Red vs. Blue with some of the one-liners mixed in.  “What’s so hard to understand about swish, swish, death?”

I saw Ray LaMontagne at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival probably a decade ago when he was a nobody from Maine and have recently been reintroduced to his music by a friend.  This song is my current favourite of his.

Ten Million Slaves by Otis Taylor.  Banjo based blues music? If you saw Public Enemies with Johnny Depp or at least the commercials you know this song.  Saw Taylor perform this live at Ottawa’s Bluesfest in 2008.  Great song from an amazing album, Recapturing the Banjo.

Amazing Grace by the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  One of my favourite songs by a mass bagpipe band and military choir.  Can you think of a better way to end a run? No, didn’t think so.

Next week I should reach another milestone, the halfway mark.  The next half will be, in all likelihood, harder than the first half, but with your support I know success is assured.


Week 12 – My Campaign

April 1, 2011

This Week: 209

Weight Loss to date: 27 lbs

Weight Loss to goal: 39 lbs

First, it’s time to take stock of my achievements so far.  Since I promised in the first note not to post any full body before shots, I’m going to use my work ID photos.  Being a contract employee, my security pass expires with my contract at the end of every fiscal year.  I don’t always get a new photo, but decided this year it might be a good idea.

The “before”. This was taken when I came back to the Senate in September 2009

.“In Progress”. March 29, 2011

I call the second one “In Progress” because “After” will be when I reach my goal.  It is far to early to declare mission accomplished in this battle.  When that happens, I’ll probably have to replace every piece of photo ID I have.

Speaking of battles, the last couple of weeks have taught me that my gains are like David Petraeus’ report to Congress on the Iraq Surge: tenuous, fragile, and reversible.  Went out a couple of times this weekend and pretty much drank double what I would normally have in beer.  My trainer calls beer “carb bombs”, to which I replied,”Car bombs? No, I just had a couple of pints of Guinness.”  Think I’m going to have to keep the beer down to my Friday happy hour two or just toss it altogether for the hard stuff.  I actually shed four pounds this week, but the first two were the two that I added between Friday and Monday.  Had I not had such wild swings last week and packed on two this weekend, I might have reached the halfway point this week.  Celebration delayed, but not denied.

As you may have guessed, there’s an election campaign going on here in Canada.  Being a recovering graduate student and a contractor, I’m rather constrained economically as to what I can do in this election.  Simply put, I would have to take an unpaid leave to work in any great capacity on a campaign this time around.  On the one hand, it sucks.  My friends are out there running for re-election, some trying to get in for the first time, and I’m practically a spectator.  Again.  This one is worse because I’m actually back in the country.  On the other hand, campaigns are really bad times to try stick to a fitness regimen.  You eat at odd hours and it’s usually junk.  Good luck finding time to get a workout in.  Candidates usually lose weight during campaigns because of all the door to door canvassing.  The volunteers usually pack it on from the junk stocked in the campaign office.

So my campaign will be the one I began in January.  Some of the lessons I’ve learned in politics both from my mentors and my own experience really does apply.  I’d share these lessons, but since my political experience and advice is pretty much my stock and trade, there’s no way I’m giving that away for free.  Like Rob Blagojevich said of Obama’s vacant Senate seat in Illinois, it’s a valuable thing.   Especially since I’ll need the money to replace the wardrobe when I get close in on my goal.  I’ll save it for my second career as a motivational speaker.

The training for the 5K continues.  This week was 10 sets of 1 minute runs with 1 minute walks.  It was also “buddy night” and I was quite happy to have a couple of friends join me.  Since I have a couple months of cardio in me before I started, I’m running a little faster than most of my group.  I wouldn’t be presumptious enough, though, to think I can train for this on my own.  It’s one thing to be fast 1 minute at a time, it’s another thing to keep that pace for 5 kilometres.

I’m gearing up, too.   Other than shoes and some Under Armour cold gear I bought for paintball years ago, I have no running gear.  I went ahead and bought a running jacket and a water bottle pack.  The water pack is self-explanatory.  I figure the Wednesday runs are late enough and the Sunday runs are early enough, it’ll be be quite cool for a couple of months during running time so the jacket will come in handy.

Here’s the punchline:  the jacket size is large.  Not extra-large.  Large.  Not extra, extra large.  Large.  It’s a little tight, mostly by design, but when I wear it, I look one of the X-men. Cyclops or Wolverine?  If I get around to posting a photo, you can decide.

One last thing on sizes.  I purchased some suits on BeyondtheRack.com.  They were on for $90, regular $300.  I’m going to need something for when I head to DC in May for commencement, but if Parliament comes back in June just to pass estimates and then break for the summer, I won’t be in any urgent need for office wear until the fall.  You may remember a status update where I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t know what size I currently am or what I size I would be by the time something from BTR was delivered in as much 3 weeks.  Since I had to pick up some pants at Moore’s a couple of weeks back, I asked my usual salesperson to measure me.  Two weeks ago, I was a  perfect size 46.  Since every 10 lbs lost s a size lower, I ordered size 44.  Worst case scenario, if they’re too small they can be let out.  I’m now down almost five suit sizes since I peaked at size 52.  An imperfect metric, but going in the right direction.


Week 11 – Some Long Ass Days Before the Fall

This week’s weigh-in: 211

Weight loss to date: 35 lbs

To goal:  41 lbs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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