Tag Archives: personal training

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.

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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!

 

The Folly of Shame

Brace yourself, I’m going to say something nice about Air Canada. Travelling to the Maritimes, we’re pretty much held hostage to Air Canada’s schedule. Yes, there are other domestic carries, but unless you live in Moncton or Halifax, you’re stuck with Air Canada to get to your destination.

I’m not going to recount the nightmare after nightmare flying with them during the winter months have been over the years. My most recent flight was my 6 am return to Ottawa from New Brunswick on Tuesday. I shared my row with a rather obese passenger, large enough they took up almost a quarter of my seat. As the passenger curled up to sleep through the flight and took up even more room, I spent the subsequent two hours thanking God that even at my peak weight I was never large enough to exceed the seat dimensions of an air plane. In fact, one of the lies I would tell myself was, “I fit in one of those tiny airplane seats. I can’t be too overweight.”

Around a year before I started my weight loss, one of my favourite directors, Kevin Smith, was kicked off a flight for being too big for his seat. Sparing myself this public humiliation and the logistical nightmare of rescheduling travel with the one airline that travels to my hometown may have crystallized my decision to lose weight.

I didn’t complain to my passenger or even ask the flight attendant to be reseated. It was a fully booked Dash-8 with all of 17 seats available to passengers (for some reason that remains a mystery to this day, row 2AC is reserved for the flight crew even though the one attendant on the plane has a seat at the front of the plane) and there was simply no seat to move to. I was also partially sympathetic. While I was never in that situation, it was only when I was travelling last year that I realized how big I was. Suddenly the seats on that little plane were … reasonably comfortable.

After the flight in my tired-ass wandering mind on the bus back to downtown , I started thinking. In 2009, the Canadian Transportation Agency recognized obesity as a disability and imposed a “one passenger, one fare” policy on the national airlines. Previously, if you exceeded the width of the seat (defined as seated with the armrest in the down position) you had to purchase the seat next to you. I don’t blame obese people for complaining. Buying two seats is a pretty expensive proposition, up to $3000. It would actually be cheaper to buy a larger executive class seat. Unfortunately, there’s no executive class seating going to and from Fredericton. None on the direct flight from Ottawa. None on the flights from Toronto and Montreal. Certainly none on the plane from Halifax. That plane barely has a luggage hold.

So, if out of the cause of reasonable accommodation, the airlines are forced to only charge a passenger a single fare regardless of the number of seats they use, is it also reasonable to make the partial seat that remains available for the 100% of the advertised fare?

I decided to investigate. I sent the following to Air Canada’s customer complaint e-mail (with personal identifiers removed):

On the above referenced flight, I was seated in 5D, an aisle seat next to an obese passenger who was large enough that the passenger would not safely fit into the seat with the armrest down. For the duration of the flight, the passenger took up about 25% of my seat. I didn’t want to cause trouble for the flight and, frankly, there didn’t look to be another seat available to move to other than 2A and C which are reserved for the flight attendant. I understand several years ago, the Canadian Human Rights Commission [Author’s note: further research revealed it was the Canadian Transport Agency] imposed a “one passenger, one fare” rule on Canada’s airline. With that understood, is it fair to make the seat available next to a passenger so obese he/she cannot fit in a single seat? Given that the Dash-8 aircraft only has two seats per row, there may be occasions where a passenger would need to be reseated. If an obese passenger is going to take up 25% of the adjacent seat, why should the passenger who has paid 100% of a fare for a seat not be entitled to an entire seat? Since there is the aforementioned row reserved for the attendant, who already has a seat at the front of the front of the plane, should not one of the passengers be reseated? It was just over two years ago that I was at my heaviest. While I was never so obese that I could not fit in a single seat with the armrest lowered, I did require come rather close to that size. Had I been at my previous weight on this morning’s flight, I would not have been able to sit in my assigned seat.

That was Tuesday morning. You know what happened? By Wednesday morning, Air Canada e-mailed me with a $150 credit for future travel as a gesture of goodwill. They explained their policy of “encouraging” obese passengers to buy a second seat when in economy class. The issue of the available row 2 which could be used to reseat a passenger remained unaddressed.

It might have helped that I selected the prefix “Dr.” from the drop down menu.

I started to think about some of the recent commentary on fat shaming. It’s basically the idea if you make fat people ashamed of being fat, they’ll lose weight. It made the news recently when this reporter responded to a viewer’s letter over her weight. Local Ottawa doctor Yoni Freedhoff even accused Disney of doing it earlier this year. There was even talk of it in the presidential race when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was being coaxed into running for the Republican nominaton. It resurfaced when he was among the politicos shortlist for Romney’s running mate and again when he addressed the Republican convention. Not all of us are lucky enough to be consoled by Sofia Vergara when someone makes fun of us, but he seems like he can take it. He did, after all, paraphrase Machiavelli and then attribute it to … his mother.

The logic of shaming is ridiculous. If you tease and troll a human being enough, they’ll make a radical life change. As a guy with unusually high self-esteem, when I was called fat I usually retorted with “Just like how your mom likes it.” Guys aren’t bombarded with images of male perfection and forced to conform. In fact, it’s the opposite. My usual nemesis, KFC, now has an advertisement where their overweight, unkempt character walks around with a bucket of the new chicken product and eventually is surrounded by a harem of bikini-clad women. Unless rufies are the 11th herb and spice, there is no way this will happen in reality. Gluttony is increasingly becoming acceptable behaviour for generation of arrested developed males. 

It’s a lot different for girls. I remember one of my feminist sociology profs complaining about the objectification of women in men’s magazines, which had exploded in number in the late 1990s (a number of which no longer exist). At some point, I snorted, “Have you been to the magazine rack at Chapters lately? Seems like women are giving men a run for their money on the objectification of their gender.”  In our exchange, which included me asking my classmates who had men’s and women’s magazines with them (interesting moment, none of the men admitted to having a men’s magazine on hand, but 2/3 of the women had Cosmo), I argued that for all the barflegarp about empowerment in women’s magazines like Cosmo most teenage girls are seeing a stick thin waif on the model on the cover. Regardless of whether the title was “Maxim” or “Cosmopolitan”, in the heyday of Kate Moss, thin was in and being presented as the ideal.

With all that cultural pressure already on women to fit into a particular ideal, those that try their whole lives and can’t get there are already pretty miserable. If you call sending young girls to the bathroom after dinner to puke their guts out a success story, give yourself a pat on the back, asshole. All you’re doing is just giving people with already low self-esteem another pummelling. I bet you make fun of the disabled, too.

For all your smug, self-appointed, self-righteousness, here’s the truth: you’re a bloody failure. You shame, society has gotten fatter. Unless there’s some immediate health concern (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc), most fatties don’t think they’re unhealthy. As I wrote at the beginning of this journal and reiterated last week, as obesity rates go up, most fat people think they’re normal and thin people are starving themselves. The truth is both extremes are full of stuff and malarkey (I wrote this after watching the VP debate).

There’s no magic bullet to get someone to lose weight. I didn’t think I was unhealthy when I was 250 lbs. The first time I was that heavy, I certainly knew it and had the sleep apnea diagnosis to prove it. It was overloaded public buses that started me losing weight and the encouragement of good friends to find ways to make a little loss into lifestyle change. Just because what I did worked for me, doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.

Don’t let the potential for failure deter you from attempting success. Even shedding a few pounds or a few inches in size will add years to your life. They might be Denis Leary’s “adult diaper, kidney dialysis years”, but you’ll enjoy your time here and now so much more.

Taunting and teasing won’t help. Shaming just leads to a persecution/victim complex which just reinforces negative behaviour, like stress eating or starvation.

You’re just another bully. You don’t even have the guts to say it to someone’s face. Having a Twitter account doesn’t elevate your thoughts to genius, it just exposes you as a coward and a buffoon 140 characters at time.

I honestly hope the passenger who sat beside me on Tuesday finds it within to start their own journey. Their life will be better for it.

Allons-y!

PS – you may notice that I’ve changed part of the title of this blog. It is no longer my year of not being fat anymore. That year ended last week. I’m going to keep writing about this journey because I’m still learning and I think I still have things in this noggin worth sharing. It’s now my life of not being fat. Hope you still enjoy the ride. I am.

Once again,

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!

The agony of victory and the thrill of defeat

When did cycling become the Thunderdome? I suppose given London’s notoriously wet weather some Olympic events that in previous games had been held outdoors were designed to be indoors this time around.

I was watching the women’s omnium finals when Canada’s Tara Whitten narrowly missed winning the bronze medal. The CTV announcer stated as the medals were awarded, “And Canada’s Tara Whitten failed to make the podium.” (Emphasis mine)

Failed? The fourth best woman in a sport I hadn’t heard of until Tuesday was just told by some faceless voice, that she had failed.

Really?

Between the sportscasters casually dropping the “fail” word and the usual collection of armchair coaches and haters on Twitter and Facebook, I was getting annoyed. I even posted on Twitter:

Let’s banish the word #fail when talking about Olympians. They failed to medal? Dude, you failed to get off the sofa.

It’s easy to criticize when you’ll never face the consequences of your words. You won’t do better because you’ll never be on that stage. You’ll never miss the podium because you never played the game.

Reminds me of this diddy by none other than the one true captain:

Paula Finley finished a triathlon injured. She came in last, but she finished. While some cartilage in her hip may have failed, her will, her instinct to finish the race did not. In recent months, I’ve become something of an expert on the subject of tough gingers. Paula, you’re up there with the toughest.

A high school classmate of mine, Jane Thorton (then Rumball), knows this subject far better than I ever will. She was on the women’s eights rowing team in the Beijing Olympics. I kind of boycotted those games because I thought the whole process of awarding those games was ginned by the IOC to pre-determine the outcome. Well, that and I’m a bit of an artifact from a previous generation that sometimes has to be reminded that the Cold War is over and, thankfully, we won (an effect of having spent a disproportionate amount of my adult life on the last enlaves of Marxism in the western world, university campuses).  I followed the rowing events because of Jane. It was the only event where I had a proverbial dog in the hunt. Due to the time zone differences, the events were almost always on while I was at work. Thankfully, my office had a television. I even went so far as to put the rounds and what channel they were on into my Outlook calendar so I wouldn’t miss them.

All my co-workers and pretty much every New Brunswicker working on Parliament Hill crowded into my office to watch Jane go for the gold in the final. When she came up just short of a medal, fourth place, I was pretty sad for her. Having worked so hard for so long, I could only imagine how she felt. She recently posted this article from another Olympian that pretty much summed it up for her.

As that afternoon went on, I thought to myself, “Someone you’ve known since a teenager is on the fourth best rowing team … in the world! Whow. That’s pretty awesome.” I was pretty proud of Jane that day. I still am.

We haven’t crossed paths in forever, so if you read this, Jane, I just wanted to tell you that your success was part of the inspiration I drew on when I decided to change my life last year.  Whenever I felt a case of the quits coming on, usually when the alarm was going off on a dark winter’s morning, I would think of the inievatable early morning rows that you probably did to get Beijing. If you could get to an Olympic final, I could at least my arse to the gym.

One of the armchair experts responding to my tweet mentioned that our athletes are paid to train. True for the ones in high profile sports that can get corporate sponsorships or some money from Own the Podium. Of course, the ones who aren’t so lucky, like discus or any of the events that involve guns, are part-time athletes. We don’t have the glorified  Spartan agoge that China seems to train all its athletes in. We let our athletes seek out the best available trainers. For many of my east coast friends, getting the quality trainers that can get an athlete to the games meant leaving the Atlantic provinces for Montreal, Toronto or even the United States. It’s not just jobs we leave home to find. Since there are so many more events in the summer games than the winter games, the vast majority of our athletes are part-timers. Since we concentrate our funds on the events that have the likeliest chance of medals, if they’re going to be able to train for an event we don’t traditionally do well in, they’re going to need to earn a living.

The pay to train model may in fact be exasperating things. Look back to Paula Findley. As Simon Whitfield pointed out, she was injured for the past year to the point she had not actually competed in the last year. Yet, her previous coaches trained her while injured. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication is if she took time off to have the injury treated properly, they wouldn’t get paid to train her.

I write this as someone whose pastime is training for races I have no hope in hell of actually winning. I’m not a 110 lbs Kenyan in my early twenties. I’m a 160 lbs Acadian-British-Scottish Canadian in my mid-thirties.  I may have exceeded even my own expectations Ottawa Race Weekend and every other race I ran, but I didn’t win. By the Ricky Bobby-ian logic of the haters, I failed.

Strange, it never felt like failure. It didn’t feel like the silly “participant” ribbon they give out on sports day in elementary school (I always found that rather condescending). It actually felt pretty damn good. Unlike the winners, who I would see being escorted off the track in wheel chairs, I actually get to leave the race grounds under my own power (at least until the adrenaline wears off). I wouldn’t even call the thousands of runners who finished after me failures, either. They crossed the start line and the finished line. In doing so, they did something very few people ever attempt. The failures are the thousands more who could do it, but never try.

Forget winning. I’m failing.

I’ll probably never make the Olympics. I’m the age when Olympians retire. I doubt I’ll ever win a half marathon. That’s not going to keep from either the start line or the finish line. Want to call me a failure? You’ll have to get to that finish line before I do to earn that. Unlike the Olympians who want to save their sponsorships, I’ll tell you what I think about you, too. You may have noticed, I have a gift for words.

Allons-y!

Two Medal Sunday, Part 1 – Ottawa Race Weekend

So it was a pretty crazy weekend. You’ve been following my training for the last few months and are probably dying to know how race day went.

Pretty

Fucking

Awesome.

bib attached to my water belt, pre-crumpled to avoid flapping, ready to go in the morning.

My morning routine on race day is pretty much the same as my Sunday morning run. I think the only difference is I’ll have my morning cup of coffee much earlier with breakfast instead of on the way to the race site and will have sorted out my gear the night before.

Yes, the night before ritual. It’s recommended if you’re going to “carb up” for Sunday morning, you do it Friday night. It gave Kalin and I an excuse to go to Fat Tuesdays to take advantage of their special carbing menu. I was originally going to cook our carbing dinner myself, but the meal I had planned was about as expensive as dining out and I wouldn’t have a mess to clean. For my laziness, we also got caught in a thunderstorm on the walk home. Dinner the night before the race was steak with sweet potatoes and veggies. The bag was packed with everything except the cold liquids. I filled my a water bottle with a mixture of honey, sea salt, grated ginger, a slice of lemon and let it sit overnight. I packed my energy gels in the front pouch and even opened the packages so I wouldn’t be frigging with them on the run. The gadgets get plugged into their chargers. The morning clothes get set in a pile. The ever-important race chip gets threaded into the shoe laces.

All this is to mitigate the possibility of running around like a chicken with its head cut off in the morning when I should be getting ready. Knowing everything is ready also helps me gets a good night sleep the night before too.

Kalin and I got to the race grounds around 8:30ish. Plenty of time for a quick trip to the bathroom in City Hall (you didn’t think I was going to get in line for the port-a-potties that was a couple hundred people long when the bathrooms in City Hall were available?) and get in my corral.

Ready to run.

When I registered for this race back in December, I registered as a 2:30 finisher. I hadn’t run a half-marathon before and had no idea what was in store for me compared to my 5K races. I wasn’t even a sub-25 minute 5K when I registered. Thankfully, you could change corrals when you picked up the race kits, hence the yellow sticker over the green corral marker. What the volunteers didn’t tell me when I did this was that I also moved up to Wave 1 and was starting half an hour earlier than I had anticipated. Another reason to make sure you get to the race site super early.

Running in the first wave helped on a couple of levels. My own thinking is that it’s better to be the ass end of the first wave than the front end of second. There would be 5000+ people ahead of me instead of 5000+ behind me. It gave you a thirty minute head start on the other half of the race. Starting half an hour also means finishing half an hour earlier. As you may guess from the title, the race wasn’t my only commitment on Sunday.

I hopped a fence to get into my corral. In the middle of those thousands of people, I immediately found a friend/distant relative, Ruth York.  Both she and her sister were running. As the gun went off and we idled up to the start line, I ran into my clinic instructor, Colin. I gave him a quick thanks for getting me this far. He thanked me for helping out with pace leading. Now it was up to our own efforts to get to the finish line.

Where’s Waldo … or Michael?

For those that want the quick version, here’s what the Garmin recorded.

I ran listening to my new half marathon playlist. Maybe I hit the wrong part of the screen or there’s a new default setting with the latest version of iOS, but my list shuffled when it should have played sequentially. In the end, it wasn’t a big distraction even if it made for unpredictable, yet fitting musical selections at some points. As designed, I would only hear the opening trumpets of the White Stripes cover of “Conquest” if I reached my goal. As it happened, the song came up third in the shuffle. It wasn’t something I was going to bother to fix while in the race.

It was a beautiful day for a run. It began slightly overcast in the low 20s. The clouds burned off about 30 minutes in and the temperature went up a few degrees. Between that and the increase in body temperature, it felt like the mid-30s.

I made good time in my early intervals, eventually catching up and passing the 2:10 and later the 2:05 pace bunnies. Since I crossed the start line a full five minutes after the gun went off, I knew so long as the 2:05 pace bunny was behind me I could finish around the 2 hour mark.

I crossed the 10K split clock as it turned 1:00:00. I knew this would be approximately a 55 min split (it was actually 55:55) and keeping with the pace I wanted.

I could feel my legs stiffening around the 12K mark. I pushed through anyway. It was there one of the race photographers caught me on a walk interval.

I’m not going to screw up my race timing for the sake of a photo. Hills are another matter. A hill caught me as I would have started a walk break, but I charged up it and took my break when I crested the hill. It messed up the intervals on my Garmin … actually I goofed them up. Had I pressed “reset” at the top of the hill it would have started with my walk break. Instead I did it after a minute had passed thinking it would start with a run interval (which actually makes sense).

Lesson learned: RTFM: read the fucking manual.

Now I was doing the 10 and 1 timing in my head. As I crossed the Booth St. Bridge into Gatineau the 2 hr pace bunnies came into view. With that, my secondary goal of a sub 2-hour finish was also in sight. I laid up on my pace a bit and crept up to the bunnies. As I crept up, I could see members of my clinic’s pace group. I would wave and shout some words of encouragement as I passed them, but most of them were listening to their music or otherwise in their zone. Hopefully, they caught a glimpse of their pace leader passing them and used it as encouragement to power on.

On thing I had not anticipated was using the water stations. I had trained to use my own water sparingly so I could take the middle of the road and zip through the water stations and not lose time. The problem with this strategy was that since so many people slow down for the station, your pace is going to slow anyway. I even had one runner ahead of me in the middle of the road dart to the left, grab a water cup, return to the centre and proceed to start walking. Since they were going to serve as a choke point anyway, I might as well grab a cup of water … or two.

As a an interval runner, I try to run to the sides of the road so I can take the edge while on the walk break and only move towards the centre when I want to run through things like water stations. You wouldn’t come to a dead stop on a major highway in traffic to change lanes and make it to an off-ramp, would you?

Okay, maybe if you lived in Montreal. Those of us that don’t live in no-fault insurance provinces and face financial consequences for reckless driving would not. The same logic applies when you’re on a race course with 10,000 other people.

As I passed the last km marker, I ramped the pace up. In the last 100m, I passed the 2hr continuous bunny and caught up to the  2 hr run/walk bunny. As the finish line came into sight, I raised my arms in triumph.

1:57:39

I collected my bling and as many snacks as I could carry and worked my through the recovery area to get out of Confederation Park to find Kalin. As soon as I made it through the maze of humanity to get to Laurier St., I immediately spotted Kalin across the street.

Unlike a certain Quebecois cab driver, I can spot a 5’9″ ginger in broad daylight.

Bling!

Kalin greated me with hugs, kisses, and most importantly … a protein shake from Booster Juice.

Mmmmm

Best

Girlfriend

Ever

The shake was super useful. With medal #1 collected,  we had to scoot back to the apartment lickety split to get cleaned up to collect medal #2 of the day. I had no time for a proper post-race meal. We walked back to my apartment. I hit the shower and got changed for the next medal.

More on that in the next post.

Giving up the Ghost

(With apologies/props to Dennis Miller) I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but is it just me or is the healthy option trend over?

For much of the last decade, fast food chains have been adding healthy options – salads, veggie burgers, etc. – to their menus. The additions were in response to perceived consumer demand for healthier options as demonstrated by the rapid ascent of the Subway chain in the late 1980’s and 1990’s to surpass McDonalds as the largest fast food chain. First, it beat McDs in number of US locations, then North America, … and then the world!

Suddenly the execs at the rivals took notice. Next thing you know, soups and salads are showing up on menus. Veggie burgers and grilled (or at least non-deep fried) chicken sandwiches started to be offered.

Some failed miserably.  KFC offered grilled chicken that somehow simultaneously had less fat but more sodium than it’s deep-fried counterpart. Wendy’s (and pretty much everyone else’s) salads were made in advance (often off-site) and kept in the fridge until you ordered. When your marketing is based around burgers cooked fresh to order, the message received is “burgers=fresh, salad=not fresh”. Wendy’s new fries seasoned with sea salt have more sodium than the old ones seasoned with iodized salt.

I don’t think anyone ever thought the fast food industry’s new found commitment to healthy eating was much more than a sop to a perceived trend of the moment. They’re real worry was the “veto customer”, the person in the car who doesn’t eat anything on their chain’s menu and convinces friends to go somewhere else. If there was just one item on that menu, that person would give up years of habit and let his friends get their Big McWhopper Classics.

The prime example is the inevitable spring special of the fish sandwich. Why does everyone who doesn’t have a fish sandwich permanently on their menu suddenly have one on special in the springtime? In a word: Lent. They don’t want to lose sales from Catholics observing the fast on Fridays during Lent. There’s only several hundred million of us in North America alone.

It didn’t work. Fast food sales have actually been in decline the last number of years. Even Subway is feeling the pinch with it’s $5 footlong offerings. Subway’s troubles have as much to do with its business model of unprotected franchises than declining sales. Like Starbucks, most major cities have a Subway within blocks of another Subway. Depending on what route I take, I can walk past as many as 5 when I walk from my apartment to the Running Room on a run night.

Now it seems like the fast food chains are going in another direction. Save for McD’s which is undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover to compete with … Starbucks(?), the fried food chains have decided to cater to the latest trend:  Internet-fuelled junk food fetishism.

KFC has the Double-Down (now in “zinger” hot and spicy flavour) which is a bun less sandwich made out of two fried chicken patties, bacon and cheese. Burger King has the quad stacker. Wendy’s has the Baconator.

That’s just the burgers!  Tim Horton’s has brought Cold Stone Creamery to Canada. Their shakes actually have more calories than the average burger. The worst offender is the PB&C (peanut butter and chocolate) shake, which clocks in at 1750 calories (1030 from fat). Thanks, Tim’s for making the burger joints look good.

Even if these items were available before I began my journey, I wouldn’t eat this shit when I was fat.  Oh, I had my moments. I would order KFC about once a year. It would serve as a reminder why I order it once a year. The salt content alone left me dehydrated for days. There’s still the odd trip to the drive thru on one of the half dozen times a year I actually have access to a car. Usually on my long road trips back to New Brunswick or Cape Breton. As much as I try to eat healthy, they haven’t made a salad I can eat with my hands while driving.  I’ve figured out some relatively decent road snacks, but the actual healthy driving meal eludes me still.

This whole junk food fetish seems to be fueled by the Internet. The ‘net has this bizarre ability to elevate any niche, no matter how random or small, to the level of international movement.  You have websites like EpicMealTime (NB: if you’ve noticed I’m not linking like I usually do, there’s a reason. Find it your damn self.) that posts videos of the team creating the most disgusting concoctions, all of which have creative uses for what they call a “bacon weave”.

And you wonder why we’re losing the war on obesity?

The marketing of this stuff even plays directly to the male ego. The tag line for the Double-Down is “Make time for man time.” Yes, the wannabe Don Drapers at KFC want you to think consuming their 610 calorie (310 from fat) and 135% of your recommended daily sodium intake sandwiches will define you as a manly man. You know what it will really define you as?

A fat man. A fat man who plays ping pong in his basement in the dark with night vision goggles that he probably got from CODMW2 Deluxe Collectors Edition. That’s what the marketers at KFC think of their customers (and they wonder why their largest franchisee in Canada declared bankruptcy).

With a day and a half’s serving of sodium in one meal, probably a thirsty fat man, too. Better buy a pop/soda, too!

The fast food scene isn’t all bad, though. Toronto-based Freshii seems to be growing quite well. Seems like they’re announcing a new location every day on Twitter.

Aside from the chains, there’s always good old-fashioned locally owned restaurants. Ottawa has it’s usual collection of pubs that serve food just a notch or two above McDonald’s, but there’s some that have innovative, healthy items and seasonal specials in addition to the burgers and fries. My two faves are the Higlander and Lieutenant’s Pump. There’s also the higher end restaurants with great chefs that prepare healthy options from locally sourced vendors. Those are pretty expensive places, like Bekta’s. There’s also a great number in between the pubs and

Eating the food that food eats

Here’s an example: The Green Door. Now that Kalin and I are an official item, Christian and his wife, Ramona, wanted to go on a “double date” with us. I let them choose the restaurant. They selected the Green Door. (Christian’s version of events and attempted conversion on the road to Damascus here)

“The Green Door,” I thought to myself. “isn’t that a vegetarian restaurant?”

Cue sinister dum, dum, dum, music,

Sure enough it was. Christian joked it was an act of revenge. For what, I don’t know and he couldn’t remember. We often take so long to retaliate against one another for our pranks it feels more like instigation than retaliation.

I got him, though. I enjoyed it! 😛

Did the ol’ Facebook check-in, where I posted the photo on the left, and was promptly heaped tons scorn by my carnivorous friends with nothing better to do on a Saturday night than to troll Facebook.

My sister took quite emphatic glee. She is a vegetarian, or at least was one. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her eat chicken and fish recently. Regardless, I’ve been teasing her mercilessly for over 15 years and she attempted some comeuppance.

In the spirit of Churchill, though, yes, I ate vegetarian, but Sunday I would cook coffee-marinated flank steak. She would still be a joyless pseudo-vegetarian.

Now for all the fun and sarcastic wit. We did have a great evening. It’s a nice place with friendly staff.  Since I wasn’t sure what I would enjoy, I took a little bit of everything. The restaurant is set up cafeteria-style and you pay by the weight of your plate. A little bit of everything made for a pricey first plate that wasn’t actually all that filling. Yep, I went back for seconds. Round two was heavy on legumes so I would feel full. It made for an expensive learning experience, but tasty one, too.

Saturday night also meant the end of our spell of nice weather. It cooled off severely overnight and was only in the mid-single digits the rest of the week. I’m just thankful it was the mid-single digits above zero.

It actually made for some nice running weather. Our 12K Sunday long run was made a little longer (by a kilometre) when I lead the group on right at an intersection when I should have gone left. I was able to quickly correct course, though. I had programmed the route into my MapMyRun account. I have the app on my iPhone so I let it track via the phone’s GPS. When I realized we were headed away from Bayswater, where we should have been going, I very quickly could find where we were vis-a-vis the route and get back on track. We met up the 2hr15 group and then quickly passed them.

We’re actually getting to the distance on the long runs where we need to take into consideration things that we didn’t have to worry as much about at shorter distances:

  1. Hydration – bring water, your own water. I run with a 750 ml Camel Back bottle and it’s so far been more than enough. Most of my runners have the belts with the little bottles, which is good, too, but in colder weather those little bottle can freeze up. There’s a couple of husbands and boyfriends that come out on the long runs with their significant others and they share each other’s water. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, unless your other sucks back all your water and leaves you empty when you need hydration.
  2. Nutrition – I’ve already written about my pre-run (oatmeal with almonds and berries) and post-run (protein smoothie). Now it’s time to think of in-run nutrition. The 13k burned almost 1,000 calories before most people have rolled out of bed on a Sunday.It’s time to start experimenting with the various gels, energy bars, and assorted snacks. So far, the gels remind me of the fluoride treatments that you get from the dentist. Blech. The experimenting will continue.
  3. Bathroom breaks – Since the Sunday runs are quite early in the morning, many of the runners who come from the office during the weeknight runs are quite hard pressed to make it on time. Since the store only has one change room/washroom, there is often a long line up for those that need to change or have a pre-run trip to the loo.  Even if they didn’t need to go before they left, the LSD runs are getting to the 90 minute mark. If the runners follow item #1, they’ll have taken in a good amount of water by the three-quarter mark of the run. One of my runners veered off into an arena a mere 2K from the store because he couldn’t hold it anymore. We need to start marking potential pit stops on the map. It will also give people a chance to fill up their water bottles.

Tuesday’s run was a quick 4K tempo. I took the group behind Parliament Hill from pathway entrance near the the Portage Bridge. This meant we had the double hill at the Rideau locks around the third kilometre. The other groups went the other direction, entering from Confederation Park, and went down the hill. Since we started that way on Sunday, I did the opposite. My runners did a fantastic job of taking the hill. I gave them a little walk break at the top of the hill before proceeding with the last kilometre.

Speaking of hills, Wednesday’s hill training actually went better than the previous week’s. The cooler temperature probably had something to do with it. One kilometre warm up, followed by five hill repeats, and a 2K cool down back to the store.

As you could probably imagine following such a run, my Thursday morning extreme lean class at Greco was extra fun. I chose the exercise station that would best help the legs work out the kinks as my first station. It was a weighted curtsey lunge. It was slow, at first, but I managed to work out the kinks pretty quick and the rest of the exercises went rather smoothly. Friday’s regular Lean and Fit class was also a great balance between upper, lower, and core body. Great way to end the week.

But wait. The week isn’t over.

Getting an extra run in tonight. It’s “bring a buddy night” for Kalin’s 5K clinic. Guess who she’s bringing.

Allons-y!

This is the end …

… of my year.

What? Did you think I was calling it quits on the blog?

You should know by now I like writing too much to let this drop. It’s also a great tool to keep myself accountable.

I also have low self-esteem and am in constant need of affirmation from others.

Okay, go ahead and call bullshit on that last sentence.

Not the last potato I would see in October.

In truth, I have the Doors song stuck in my head. Some techno pile of pablum on the playlist for my Greco classes samples the opening in its chorus. It’s not as bad as the techno cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb I heard at Freshii one night

I almost didn’t make it. While I reached my goal weight with Free Form Fitness at the end of  September, I added a few pounds between the end of my time there and the beginning of my time at Greco Lean and Fit.

I worked the extra pounds off and then some at Greco. The indulgences of New Brunswick and a relaxed exercise routine during my trip home for Christmas holidays added a few back. Renewed food discipline and increased exercise, four Greco sessions to make up for the loss of a run night, beat it back the weight to below 170.

By the numbers

                       Worst (Sept 2010)     January 13 2011    January 13 2012

Weight (lbs)          250ish                                   234                              165

Body Fat %              ?                                           36%                           21.9%

BMI                            38                                          35.6                           25.1

Neck (In)                17.5                                         17.5                            15

Chest                         52                                           50                               38

Waist                         42                                          42                               32

I’ve gone from looking like

Don Corleone

to

Don Draper

While most of my friends wished 2011 goodbye and good riddance, I was kind of sad to see the old girl go. While it did end on a low note professionally, the preceding 52 weeks taken in total simply constitute the best year of my life. I accepted the challenge of getting to 170 lbs and I exceeded it. On a dare, I took up running, committing to do a 5K race. I not only survived that race, but a found a new passion. I did four more 5K races since then and went from 32:35 in May to a personal best of 27:25 in September. I’ve deepened my existing friendships and made a lot of new ones.  Becoming an instructor at the Running Room reignited my passion for teaching.

How much have my looks changed? The facial recognition feature of iPhoto hasn’t recognized me since July. I have to manually

That’s how I did this, but why did I do this?

To protect my side gig as a Ricky Gervais impersonator. Ricky lost weight, so did I.

Well, not really. Seeing some high profile celebs that I’m a fan of, like Ricky Gervais and Jonah Hill, get fit this year helped strengthen my resolve to succeed, but the resolve was already there.

I knew I would have to do this eventually. In 2004, I clocked in at 244 lbs and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I had the choice of the CPAP machine or lose weight, so I hit the gym and got my weight down to 180 lbs by the time I left New Brunswick for my PhD studies in Washington, DC.  I had no idea my weight had crept back on me over the next five years. The sedentary lifestyle of the graduate student combined with the penchant for stupid food choices lead to it all coming back and then some.

In many ways, this last year has felt like the Doctor’s regeneration sequence. I look different. (I’m sure you’re getting sick of the Doctor Who references, but I’m not.) I feel different. More energy. More stamina. I go to bed earlier, but I also get up around 5 am almost every day.  Farmers and fishermen don’t get up this early (at least this time of year).

I am still the same, though. Think of it as the 2nd Michael.

The next year has a lot to live up to. The blog will continue while I actually go an entire year not fat. What you’ve read up until today was just the prologue.

There are challenges ahead. Some, like the half-marathon, I’ve set for myself.

Others have been thrust upon me. My old flames, my most psychotic stalker ex-lovers have found me. First, Covered Bridge Potato Chips found its way to the Organic Food Store near Vicky’s.

Now ….

My greatest enemy has found me. Five Guys. The Daleks to my Doctor. They stalked me all the way from Washington. Time and space meant nothing for them in their dogged pursuit of me.  They crossed a border. This litter was at the foot of the stairs to my apartment building when I came home from a movie Monday night.

They’re here. There’s one in Riverside, a mere 3.5 km away.

The Doctor ended the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks by placing the whole conflict in a time lock, literally locking them away from existence.

I don’t quite have that capability. I’m just not going to go  to Riverside.

The answer is that simple: just don’t go. If Tron: Legacy taught us anything, sometimes the only way to win is to withdraw from the game.

To quote a great admiral:

Allons-y!

So You Say You Want A Resolution III – Give Back

You called in the pros.

You surrounded yourself with friends that are good for you.

Now it’s time to JFDI.

Just

Fucking

Do

It.

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

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

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

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

It’s time to replace the wardrobe.

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

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

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

Take my advice: don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You start to see the point.

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

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

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

the Charity Pile

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

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

Google them.

Contact them.

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

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

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

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

To recap:

Call in the pros.

Surround yourself with Christians and Vickys.

JFDI

One foot in front of the other.

Pay it forward.

And …

Wait for it …

Allons-y!

Week 45 – Gearing Up

Winter is coming.

Since the adaption of Game of Thrones was announced for HBO, you’ve been seeing that phrase a lot this year.

In Canada, winter is almost always coming.  When it isn’t coming, it’s here.

Like death, it stalks us all.

I know it sounds rather ominous and gloomy.  The truth is I like winter. Not fussy about the short days, though.  The hardest part of starting my workout routine back in January was the fact that early morning workouts meant leaving my building in darkness and going home from work in darkness.  Daylight happened while I was at work. After a couple of months of this, I have the complexion of one of those emo Twilight vampires without the sparkles.

I love winter activities.  When I was younger, I skied a lot.  My parents would take my sister and I cross country skiing in the woods.  As we got older, we got into downhill skiing.  Growing up in Cape Breton, we were spoiled.  The hill in Ben Eoin was only half an hour form our house in Coxheath, so we would often do our homework after school and head to the hill after dinner.  One of the drawbacks of big city living … okay, medium city living … it is Ottawa, after all … is I don’t have a car.  As such, most ski hills are out of reach.

What I don’t need a car to get to is the Rideau Canal Skateway. 

I live a few blocks from where I took this photo.  I just need to toss on my skates and go.  It gets really crowded during Winterlude with tourists, so I usually avoid it then.

I even managed to skate when I lived in DC.

The reflecting pool at the Sculpture Garden would be frozen every year.  I don’t know how they did it, but they would keep it frozen until the end of March.  By that time, this Canadian would be back in the shorts.  In fact, it was 25 degrees Celsius when I took this photo.  Before you ask, the ice is real, not one of those synthetic all weather surfaces like they had in the Rockville Town Square. There was a nice cafe adjacent to the pool for a cup of hot chocolate afterward.

They also had alcohol, but there were bars nearby that were cheaper.

Winter was always weird in DC.  My friends from the southern US never got used to the cold.  Me, on the other hand, I was always waiting for winter to arrive. The coldest it would get would be -4.  I never got used to the mass panic and chaos that a snow flurry would bring. They would actually call it a “snow shower”.  The idea of American Empire seemed silly every time 4 cm would close down the capital of the free world.

I did, however, miss “snowpocalypse”.

You won’t see guys like this on the Weather Nework up here.

BTW, for those not up on their weights and measures, 22 inches is about 56 centimetres.  That’s a legitimate snowstorm even in these northern climes.

It’s also my first winter as a runner. New season means new gear. New gear doesn’t necessarily mean more gear, though.  With the Running Room’s one year unconditional warranty on its Running Wear brand, I got to return my old gear that I bought when I started in the spring because it’s now too big. Yep, the warranty even covers weight loss. Between my store credit and my instructor’s discount, I managed to fully stock up on winter gear (jacket, pants, thermal undies, socks) for a net expense of $13. Pretty good, huh?

I also took the first step in the next phase of this journey.  I signed up for the half marathon for Ottawa Race Weekend.  I’ll take the Running Room clinic that begins in February.  I will have to pick up some new spring/summer gear along the way because even stuff I bought in June/July is too big.  I really need to give my drawers a similar gutting as I gave my closet earlier this year.

My apartment looks like I’m getting ready to move. Now that my size is stabilizing, I’ve been buying some clothes on Beyond the Rack again.  I don’t have to worry about being a different size then when I ordered. I’ve ordered a few shirts and sweaters as well as some athletic gear.  I think the smallest discount I got was 50%.  Even bought a $700 Invicta watch for $60. Seems like everything arrived this week. One shirt was the wrong size, but they have a pretty good return policy.  Just slap the prepaid return address label on the box along with the return UPC sticker and the purchase will credited to my account.

Winter is coming.

And I am ready.

Just bring it.

Allons-y!