So remember how I was going to keep you posted on those new adventures in Fredericton?
Kind of failed miserably on that one.
In a nutshell:
I trained solo for the Army Run Half Marathon. Did well with another sub-2 hour finish, but not as well as I wanted. Made the rookie mistake of starting too fast and running out of gas.
I learned a few lessons from solo training this summer:
1. I can do it.
2 Running alone sucks.
3. Never eat corn the Saturday night before a long run.
I think those are self-explanatory.
Started training for the Bluenose Marathon. Went old school and did the Running Room clinic here in Fredericton. Whether it was those tumbles last year in the Hypothermic Half catching up to me or just plain wear and tear, I ended up with a Baker’s cyst under my patella and doctor’s orders to lay off the training. Oh well, next year.
Still keeping active, but laying off the high impact cardio. I’ve been hitting the swimming pool at the YMCA most mornings before work.
On the professional side, work is going very well. I spent the summer studying for my life licence exams. Passed those and then waited months for the province to approve my application. Now approved, I’ve been going gangbusters on expanding my firms employee benefits division as well as working with individual clients.
I’ve also been teaching some political science courses at my alma mater, St. Thomas University. The teaching was an unexpected opportunity, but a welcome one. Given the academic job market, I’m pretty lucky to be in a position to even use my PhD. Since both courses I taught were as a replacement for a previously hired professor, the timetable was not of my choosing (like most part-time instructors) and finding the balance between the primary and secondary employers was difficult. With training for a marathon on top of two jobs, it’s a good thing Kalin and I were long distance as we would have seen each other just as much.
That’s right, I wrote “were” long distance. Our long distance relationship is no more. It’s now a no distance relationship. We’re engaged to be married and will be tying the knot next year.
We have many adventures ahead, one of which is a new blog we’ll be co-writing, In Omnia Paratus: An Adventure in Literature, and Life.
As for this blog, it’s time to put it to bed. I’ve enjoyed sharing my story. Sharing it helped keep me accountable and contributed to my success. As fitness has become my routine, however, I’ve found I’ve had less new experiences to write about. Two jobs involving a lot of after-hours work hasn’t helped, either.
It’s time to start a new adventure.
It’s been a busy week. On top of work and training, Kalin has been getting ready for a busy weekend. Her mom is visiting, along with her grandmother, a great-aunt, aunt, and a cousin.
That’s right. It’s time to meet the family.
Pray for me.
The drought continues. We had a nice thundershower on Tuesday, but it was just that, a shower. The brief deluge subsided by the time we got through our 4K tempo run. Oddly, the humidity rolled in after the storm. It wasn’t so bad Wednesday for our 6 hill repeats. It was sunny and hot, but not terribly muggy.
I could still feel the hills in my legs Thursday morning when I went to Greco. I may have to re-think my schedule as the hills ratchet up.
I could not be an idiot and start the circuit at something other than a leg station. It was a reverse lunge off a bosu ball with a bicep curl. Probably not a smart exercise to start off with.
That might work.
It’s that wonderful time that only comes once every four years, the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the Olympics, be it the Summer or Winter. While not one for watching professional sports, I do enjoy watching amateur athletes compete. For many of them, the Olympics is the pinnacle of their sport.
Well, that’s pretty much the case for all the summer olympians except the basketball players. There’s not exactly a professional synchronized diving league.
What I don’t like is the obscene amounts of money the IOC rakes in. Precious little goes to the athletes. I understand it’s up to the competing countries to fund their athletes, at the same time the members of the IOC live pretty high on the hog. It’s history of corruption is a matter of public record. I don’t expect athletes from rich countries, like Canada, to accept the handouts from the IOC. We have government funding. Corporations sponsor athletes. What about the poorer countries? Of the couple billion McDonald’s is shelling out to be the official food vendor of the games, how about kicking some into a grant program for athletes from developing countries.
Or better yet, have the IOC members from those countries fly coach.
Like the rest of us.
By the way, what kind of mixed message is the Olympics sending by having McDonald’s as the official food vendor? While I’ve written somewhat favourably about MickeyD’s, or McRotten’s, healthy options before, having them as the only option at the Olympics is like having a single mother preach abstinence.
Oh, that’s Bristol Palin’s claim to fame? It’s not like Dancing with the Stars ever had actual stars.
I love competition. Despite only be a recent convert to healthy living, in what sports I did play, I always gave it my all. This was mostly summers spent playing paintball. For some reason, paintball has yet to become an Olympic sport. There are plenty of shooting sports at the Olympic, but none where you get to shoot back. This is wrong.
I’ve missed out on my paintball the last couple of summers. Being carless in Ottawa doesn’t lend itself well to participating in a sport where the fields are out in the suburbs.
Even if my gear was in Ottawa, I use a Tippmann A5 marker. It looks like a submachine gun. I may have made a few modifications to that effect. Point being, it’s not something I can take on the bus. I may be tempted to use it on some arsehole. I’d play at the Sunday walk-ons at Capital City Paintball. It would make Mondays at the office interesting. The running joke in the summer at the university where I worked was how many new bruises I had.
The great thing about walk-ons was that you would never know who would show up. Sometimes it would be a bunch of experienced players. Sometimes it would be a bunch of little kids. The little ones were the worst. They’d just hide behind a tree and spend twenty minutes trying not get shot or even take a shot. So much for Operation: Newbie Shield.
One of my crazier moments was when the field’s manager, Bryan, and I were playing speedball on opposing teams and had separately decided to throw the other team for a loop by charging the centre. Back then, we were both big and slow. I’m happy to report that is no longer true for either of us. Back then, we relied on the range of our markers and the speed of our trigger fingers to pick players off the break and suppress the advance of the opposing team. No one would have expected either of us to charge the middle. I remember saying to my team, “I bet they’re so stunned they don’t even shoot.”
I guess Bryan had the same idea. As I charged forward, so did he. Spheres of paint zinged passed us. As we slid into opposite sides of the centre bunker, we raised our markers and fired upon each other … point blank.
Both our shots connected and broke. Bryan landed in a better position and had the drop on me. I, on the other hand, had somehow managed to grab the flag. Actually, we probably knocked it out of its hole and it happened to land on my side. The point is, it was on my side. Bryan would have to leave cover to come across to get it. So when Bryan said I got shot first and was therefore out, I replied, “Okay, see you in the deadbox.”
I ball hit the hopper of his marker before I finished the sentence.
In many sports, sometimes you sacrifice your individual position to give your team the advantage.
You can guess what I can think of the news of teams throwing matches outright so they can get an easier ride in their tournaments or avoid a trip to Scotland. This is the height of your career. You only have this chance once every four years. Bring your all or move aside for someone who will. If formerly fat me can charge through field of paint zipping past me at 300 fps, you can swing a raquet at a plastic shuttle.
In running, I only have one competitor. It’s my last finish. When I’m in queue to start with 7,000+ people, I know I’m not crossing that line first. Unless it’s a really small race, I’m probably not winning in my age category either. My only competition is myself.
He’s a bit of dick, too.
No, I’m not talking about the killer rabbits from Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.
I’m writing about the person who runs ahead of your pace group, but isn’t the actual pace leader. They may want a slightly faster run, or just want to be in the front of the group because they don’t like running in crowds. The thing is, they’re first but they have no responsibility to the group. Some are good about this and check to make sure they’re still on course. Others are just plain careless.
The reason I call them rabbits comes partly from why we call the pacers on race day “pace bunnies”. It goes back to dog races. The dogs follow a fake rabbit on a mechanical arm that moves around the track to the finish line. Runners in a group have a tendency to follow whoever is first. It can be a little tricky in the first couple of weeks as people move up and down pace groups looking for the right one from them. Between adrenaline and lack of blood to the brain, they may not recognize they’ve started following someone other than their pace leader.
I’ve had to deal with this a few times as a pace leader. Each instance required a different strategy. In my last clinic, I had a married couple that wanted to do continuous pace for long runs on Sunday. I just let them go off and do their thing. As far as I was concerned, once the first walk break started and they kept running, they left the group. If they were within shouting distance and had missed a turn, I would let them know but keep the rest of the group from replicating the mistake. I had another short distance hero that thought we should run faster on our LSD runs. Despite her terrible form and awful breathing, she kept insisting she and therefore we should be faster. I remember the 7K run from hell last winter where she spent the last 2 kilometers talking about her 45 minute 10K finish from five years ago.
Earlier in this clinic, I knowingly let a rabbit make a wrong turn to make an example of him. He crossed Wellington St. when he didn’t have to and half a dozen members of the group went with him. It was the difference between having a run from MacKenzie to Bank St. uninterrupted by traffic lights and having to stop for lights three times and cross back to our side of Wellington because the stretch from O’Connor to Bank was closed. That same run, I had already told one wannabe rabbit who said we should cross on don’t walk light that we don’t do that in my pace group. It was that long light by the National Art Gallery that’s fed by three different roads. Long and short of it is, I told her my group obeys traffic signals and makes it home alive.
Tuesday, I had a what could have been a Darwin Awards worthy moment on my hands. Several of my runners have this habit during tempo runs of running faster for the last 500 meters or so to the store (it happened last time early in the clinic, but waned as people moved to higher pace groups, distance increased, etc). Since this is usually on city streets with traffic lights, I think this is probably the stupidest thing a runner can do on any given night. I also don’t like the interruption of traffic lights, so when I run the group along the canal I always go far enough down before turning around we will get our distance in by the time we make it back to Elgin St and reserve those two blocks back to the store for a cool down walk. With this 5K route, it’s difficult. I would normally have my group just keep going to Bank to finish off the distance without having to stop for lights. Unfortunately, four of my group had already turned down O’Connor so I led the rest down that way, too. Given what would happen next, I’m glad I did. I witnessed two of my group running towards a crosswalk despite the orange hand of a don’t walk light. I shouted for them to stop. I could see three buses heading in their direction. They entered the intersection without hearing me. Thankfully, they cleared the intersection before the traffic reached them. Neither of them even turned their heads to see what was coming their way or why they were being shouted at.
I spoke to them individually when I got back to the store. One was very apologetic. She didn’t realize it. She was following the one in front of her. Rabbit syndrome. The other was defiant, denying the don’t walk light was even lit. She got a lecture on how the “bon homme” (I’ve only learned recently that this is what francophones call a walk light) isn’t a force field. Neither of them could hear me because they were both listening to music. Noticing that both of them were listening to music in both ears, I suggested that they only use one earbud. The apologetic one agreed. The defiant one then told me something earth-shatteringly stupid:
“I can’t run with one ear phone because only one ear works.”
Huh? Say again.
“I’m deaf in one ear. I have to use my good for my iPod.”
So you’re using your good ear for music instead of paying attention to your surroundings on city streets?
“It’s okay, I won’t sue.”
I’ll believe that when I see it … in writing … witnessed … and notarized.
I’ve been around lawyers most of my life. When I said to one of my lawyer friends that I new many of his ilk, he joked back, “Yes, but do you know any good ones.”
My attitude towards music and running has evolved over the year and a half I’ve been at this. I’ve been doing my training runs and short races without it, but I did do my half-marathon with it. Since I was planning to run too fast to keep up a conversation, I figured a playlist would be in order to keep my mind focused. Everyone I’ve met since starting at the Running Room has told me one thing about long runs; they can be boring to the point of distraction to do alone. In fact, when I run alone I typically just do this almost 6K loop.
I just could’t believe how cavalier Defiant One’s attitude was. I honestly hope she never runs alone at night…or, for that matter, daytime. Even in nice cities like Ottawa, summer seems to bring out the pervs.
Thankfully, she wasn’t my problem on Wednesday. It was only 3k, so she tried the 1:50 group. When our groups passed each other after the turnaround, she was keeping up. Hopefully, she will find that pace more to her liking. With her attitude, she’s an accident waiting to happen at my pace level.
In some ways, the rabbits remind me of people who didn’t show up to class in university. In most courses it was no bother. After all, life happens. We all had that course, though, where, despite being fully enrolled, only about half the students show up to an average class. They enroll in the course/program for the credit of doing so, but really aren’t interested in doing much than getting credit for showing up on exam days. This frustrated me royally as both student and professor. On separate occasions, I was both a student in and instructor for university classes that were prerequisites for the program I was in. Everyone in the program wanted into these courses so they were required for their major. I remember during my brief stint as a political science/criminology double major and having to sit through the required class on deviance. Attendance for this class was about 55-60%. There were only two sections that year and it was a prerequisite to enter the third year courses in criminology, which was incredibly popular at St. Thomas. There was a huge wait list. We could all drop the course and it could be filled by the morning.
The professor’s frustration was obvious. She would use it as a teaching moment, “Let’s talk about the general versus specific deterrent effects of an attendance requirement on class.” It felt like she was punishing those who showed up for those that didn’t. We weren’t the ones who taking a space in the course away from someone who wanted to be there. I had many issues with the course and the material, but when that teachable moment became an essay question on her mid-term, the one time the classroom was full, I realized I didn’t want to be there. While it was too late in the term to vacate my spot for a student who would have liked to have been in the course (or to pick up an additional course to replace the one I was about to drop), I could at least be an example to my fellow students. I handed in my half-completed mid-term, which probably scared the shit out of the no-shows, and headed to the registrar’s office to drop the course mere minutes before the deadline to do so without penalty expired. I trudged through the snow, hoping the forecasted storm had not made the office close early. It was a move that solidified a decision made earlier in the week, to honor in political science.
When I returned to St. Thomas to work with then Senator Kinsella and teach in their human rights program, I used the experience of that deviance course to shape my own policies as an instructor. By the time I had returned, we had online registration and the wait lists were done away with. We also had requests from the registrar’s office to inform them of anyone who did not attend the first couple of classes so they could be dropped to make room for students wanting to get in. I had an Intro class of 75 and clearly articulated in the syllabus that anyone who missed three out of the first four classes without contacting me would be dropped. This would help make room for those that wanted to be there. I would also drop anyone who missed the majority of classes by the drop without penalty date. In my mind, this would be an act of mercy. Since it was a relatively new program, only the second full-time program in Canada, we were not sure what the text should be for the Intro course. I used human rights documents and supplemented them with my lectures, along with some journal articles. If you didn’t attend the lectures, you wouldn’t pass the exam. I figured seeing these items in print would scare off a few to make room for someone who wanted to be there. I had over 90% attendance. That didn’t prevent the real awkward conversation with one student who showed up for the exam having never attended a class other than the first.
I know it’s a rather limited comparison. For one thing, no one is taking space from someone who would like to be there but can’t because we’re oversubscribed. Running Room clinics don’t work that way.
Where the comparison is apt is these rabbits have enrolled in a program, but for whatever reason want to do something other than the program they paid for. Most of my rabbits just want a faster run. The simple solution for them is they should probably attempt to run with a faster pace group. My friend Christian found this to be the case when he ran with me one Sunday and ran with the 1:50 group subsequent weeks. I’m a big fan of training conservatively, but now is the time in our schedule to experiment with your abilities and try the faster pace. There’s nothing personal and I’m not offended if you want to run with a faster group. You can always come back to the slower pace group.
If you want to run at faster pace but can’t keep up with faster group, take responsibility and volunteer to lead a group between the already established groups. For example, start a 1:55 group. It may be a good way to work yourself up to the faster group. Just as an example, Joanne created a 2:10 pace group in the last clinic and within weeks they were all part of my 2h group.
The moral of this story is if you want to do your own thing, do your own thing. Don’t drag others with you.
Be a leader, not a rabbit.
May 6, 2011
This week’s weigh-in: 198 lbs
Weight loss to date: 38 lbs
To goal: 28 lbs
Finally made it under 200 lbs. Sweet Jesus it felt good to see the scale dip below that magic number. Thank you for all your support. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.
I actually dipped below 200 on the weekend. My boss was coming into the office for a few minutes Sunday morning and since I was going to be nearby for my Running Room run, I figured I would draw the short straw and come in. Since I didn’t have time to get back to Chapel St. to shower and change and return to the Hill in time, I took a change of clothes with me and swung by the Senate gym to grab a quick shower. The locker rooms in the gym have proper medical scales. Curiosity got the better of me and I succumbed to temptation to step on the scale. I set the scale to my previous weigh-in, stepped on the scale, and waited for the arm to move in judgement.
(For those that don’t remember how these things work from fourth grade science class, that means I was lighter than the weight I set it to.)
Moved the big slider to 150 and the little one to 49.
Moved the little slider to 48.
Arm moves to the center and stays there. 198 lbs.
Since this was just after a run on what seems to be a rare beautiful day here in Ottawa, some of this may have been some excess loss of water weight. My weigh in the following day was up a pound to 199. Still, it was under 200 and I was over the moon. Wednesday I was 198.5 and today I am 198.
When I was asked what I would do to celebrate, I said, “nothing”. As tempted as I am to celebrate, anything to celebrate would probably just add a pound or two and give me another cause to celebrate when I re-achieve this milestone. I’m also heading to DC next week for CUA’s commencement ceremony. While I will try to behave, I may be tempted a lot to celebrate a bit.
That said, I’m certainly not going to feel guilty about drinking anymore. I told my trainer I would give it up until I dipped below 200, but didn’t quite keep that promise. I cut back, but didn’t abstain. I can count the number of drinks I had on one hand, though. Okay, make that two hands … and a foot. Since I gave up beer, I tend to suck back the gin and soda like it’s water because at bar, served in a glass full of ice, it practically is water. While I only drank about three or four times in the last few weeks, the one or two times it was at a bar resulted in a large quantity in my consumption. At least there are no carbs!
I’ve mentioned the negative effect my weight loss has had on my wardrobe, before, and my desire to find some cheap suits to get me through the eventual sitting. Well, two of the three suits from Beyond the Rack finally arrived after a couple of weeks of delay. They were really nice, but I had already shrunk out of them. I thought about keeping them. After all, they were only $80 and just intended to get me through the next 2 – 2 1/2 months. The problem was the suit’s jackets were big enough on me I honestly didn’t think they would make it the sitting, which could be as little as three weeks away! I may just run back to Zara and pick up another suit like the one in my current profile picture.
I’ve called the clothing thing “a nice problem to have” before. Frankly, it’s becoming just a plain problem. I’ve already replaced the size size 38 belt I bought in February with a size 34. It may not seem like it, but I don’t like spending money on stuff I’m not going to get much use out of. Don’t get me wrong, I like to buy stuff. I normally buy books, gadgets, and clothes. All three of which I used to get significant use out of. I buy some electronic doo-dad when the one I’m using wears out. I got five years out of my first iPod before I replaced it. By the time I bought my Touch, my old school 4G had about a 20 minute battery life. My fall splurge at Moores was precipitated by the fact that I wore out three of my suits towards the end of the spring sitting.
I used to have a terrible track record of impulse purchases and not anticipating future needs. In January 2004, I bought a Dell computer using their four year payment plan. Thinking they would be unnecessary expenses, I didn’t opt for either the larger 40 GB hard drive or the internal wifi card. A few months later I bought my first iPod and copied my 200+ CDs to my 30 GB hard drive. A year later, I upgraded to a better digital camera, which meant larger file sizes per picture. Fredericton’s free wifi network was then only confined to a few downtown city blocks and my parents’ house was still using dial-up, so a wifi card seemed like a pointless expense. Within the year, the network would expand to most of the major parts of the city and the service providers finally offered hi-speed internet to New Maryland. The net results of this lack of foresight was spending more money on a computer to constantly play catch-up with technology. By the time I began the search for the Dell’s replacement in 2008, it could barely turn on. After months of research, I decided to go whole hog with the highest end 15″ MacBook Pro of the line. Sure, I spent almost two grand when I could have gotten way with a much cheaper Windows laptop, but how many times when I was writing my dissertation did you see a status message complaining about some computer failure at a critical juncture in my writing? None.
Buying clothes right now just reminds me of old, spendthrift me.
The long and short of it is, though, I’m going to buy some new clothes now that I know will not fit in a couple of months. Suck it up. I know many of think this may be rare for someone in my profession, but I’ll be honest that one of the reasons I’m doing this is to look better. I never felt I looked bad when I was heavier (looking back is entirely different story), but one of my motivations is to have my outer self look more like my inner self. Remember: of what ever maladies I may have or had, a deficiency in self-esteem was never one of them. If I don’t buy clothes that fit better, I’m actually wasting the money I’m spending on training because I look like a cancer patient wearing that oversized stuff instead of projecting the healthier, new me.
Summer stuff is going to be even tougher. I know there’s no point in buying summerwear now because it will be too big by the time the season actually arrives. Last weekend it was actually nice enough to wear shorts. I put on a pair of blue and white plaid Columbia shorts. They were so big, they looked like a kilt. Maybe Romard was up to something back at STU?
Since I’m heading to DC at the end of next week, I may not have the time to write an entry for next week. I’ll certainly keep you updated on the results.
January 27, 2011
Today’s Weigh-in: 228 lbs
Loss to Date: 8 lbs
To goal: 58 lbs
Again I want to start by thanking everyone for their encouragement, especially those who have shared their own stories of weight loss.
Your stories reminded me: I’ve done this before and I will do this again.
It’s funny how these things start. In my case, it was a 2004 family trip to Alberta for my cousin’s wedding. For the most part, I stayed in my own hotel rooms. I was 27 and well employed, a veritable grown-up who didn’t need to crash with his parents. With one exception: the two nights we stayed in the bed and breakfast where we were having the wedding dinner and, since Cape Bretoners were involved, party . The first night, I stayed in a room with my parents, they in the bed in an above loft and me on a pull out couch. At some point, Dad kicked the pull-out bed to get me to roll over, complaining I was snoring too loud. I flipped the bird, called him a hypocrite (among other things unfit for publication), but ultimately complied. This ritual would be repeated when I went to Halifax for another cousin’s wedding, this time sharing a room with my parents because I neglected to reserve one myself and the hotel sold out.
Dad had good reason to get called the “h” word (the others, … well … he did actually kick the bed). Neither of my parents are what you call quiet sleepers, and I spent many a night while travelling on family vacations utterly powerless to get to sleep after they started. When they tried to warn me that my snoring was unnaturally loud, my reaction when I was in a good mood was typical of my generation: “Whatever” or “My snoring isn’t my problem, it’s yours.”
Turns out though, it was my problem. In the months that followed, I noticed a whole host of things happening that simply weren’t normal for me. My memory recall was shot. More than one friend over the years has remarked at my ability to recall the tiniest bit of trivia – a skill that was very useful at Rick Anderson’s trivia shows – and one even suggested I try to get on Jeopardy to fund grad school.
I was also dozing off at work. Now I’m sure that happens to everyone now and then, but this was happening daily. With my coffee consumption at the time hovering around 3 to 4 extra-large Tim Horton’s a day, I had more caffeine in my blood than actual blood. I was especially worried about the dozing off, because it was summer and a 7 hour drive to the family summer homestead in Ben Eoin was never out of the question and I often drive with my boss to political events. I write “drive with” because he likes to drive himself, but if I’m lucky, he’ll be just tired enough he won’t want to drive home so I get to do my Jeremy Clarkson impression and get behind the wheel of his Jaguar or Caddy.
Figuring these were connected, I went to see my doctor. I hate going to see my doctor. Not because it means admitting I’m sick, but because he’s a cranky bastard. The good thing is cranky bastard doctors are pretty efficient so at least he usually runs on time. In this case, I actually got a med student doing their practice term. She looked down my throat, ruled a few things out, got stymied and was thinking of what other tests she could subject me to when I opened my big yap:
“I’ve been hearing about this thing called sleep apnea. Could this be it?”
That pretty much crystallized whatever she was thinking. Next thing, she’s ordering the sleep test.
I should probably mention at this point that I have never been a great sleeper. A good night sleep for me might be four hours. My mother says, “You’ve been a night owl since the day you were born. You just stopped keeping the rest of us up with you.” This history wasn’t quite helpful when the intern would ask when was my last quality sleep and my response would be typically, “Never” or “Two weeks ago when I went out with the boys. It took about eight hours to sleep that off.”
I’ll spare you the medical mumbo-jumbo on sleep apnea. That’s what Google and Wikipedia are for. All you really need to know is the sleep test, which uses infrared to measure the continuous levels of oxygen in your bloodstream while you sleep. If it records levels going down, you have apnea. Like most tests I’ve taken throughout life, I registered a high score. A high score in this test, however, is more like a high score in golf. You don’t want it.
The diagnosis was in. The treatment was a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine and weight loss. I then weighed in at 244 lbs. In the BMI index, that was 37 or Obese Level II. In fact, just a few points shy of morbid obesity. While no causal link has been established between sleep apnea patients and obesity, there is a high correlation between the two. Since the correlation is greater than that of cigarette smokers to cancer, I figure they might be right on this one.
The month long trial with the CPAP machine made me wonder if the device was in use at Gitmo, extracting info from Taliban militants. For those who haven’t taken the hint and googled sleep apnea, a CPAP keeps your airway open while you sleep by blowing air through your nose through the airway, forcing the flap to stay open. If you’re thinking it sounds like a vacuum cleaner on reverse, you’re right. It’s just quieter. The first mask they gave me went over my head like that for a fighter pilot. Since I was a light sleeper, this was enough to ensure the next month would be a sleepless one, thus defeating the point of the machine. Two weeks in, I asked for different mask. This one was the tube kind like you see emphysema patients, it wraps around your ears and goes up your nostrils. It wasn’t much of a help. Despite having a built in humidifier, it dried out my nostrils and caused frequent nose bleeds. Cocaine addicts have less nose bleeds than I had. I ended my four week trial in week three because my mind was made up. There was no way I was going to spend $1200 for this thing. Since I wasn’t going to buy it, there seemed little reason to lug it with me on a business trip to Washington, DC.
So weight loss it was. Ironically, when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I was already moving in this direction for its own sake. I had already started to go swimming daily prior to my diagnosis. Since I had also moved out of my parent’s house in New Maryland for a townhouse on Connaught St., I was now within walking distance of my office at St. Thomas, albeit an uphill walk. The morning after my diagnosis, I took out a membership at the STU fitness centre. Since most of my vehicle use was meetings off-campus and the weekend, I would leave the car at the university during the week and walk to work on weekdays and workout at the fitness centre before going to work. After work, I would walk downtown to the Beaverbrook hotel to swim before walking home. I even symbolically sold my junk food to one of my housemates for a dollar and moved it from my side of the cupboard to his.
I didn’t have a nutritional plan like I do now, but I cut down on portions. No more “fourth meal” on Friday night. I would keep my Saturday morning routine of going to the Boyce Farmer’s Market as a reward, but other than that I kept true to my plan. I even cut back on drinking. At the time, I was probably drinking a couple of gin and tonics a night. I cut it down to couple a week. Fridays at the Taproom were still sacrosanct.
By the time I left for DC in August 2005 to start my PhD, I was down to 178 lbs. I was down from a 44 waist to 38. I had my suits taken in. Oddly, I hadn’t gone down a shirt size. The dimensions for men’s shirts are such that neck, shoulder, and chest size matter in determining size and those don’t change much through weight loss. The large might still have been too small, but the XLs were pretty loose, though.
The following years would see me gain almost every pound back. In part because my weight loss didn’t lead to me having some ripped body like those late night informercials, I didn’t notice the pounds coming back on. I figured the walk to places like Urban BBQ for their soul rolls was enough to justify them. Upon coming back to Ottawa, working while writing the dissertation didn’t help. I needed the quick meal so I could get writing, not the good meal. Suit sizes became an unreliable indicator, too. When designers switched to slimmer suit designs to capitalize on the Mad Men fashion trends, I arbitrarily went up to a size 52 suit while my 46s still fit perfectly.
I haven’t had the return of the symptoms of sleep apnea, but that’s not to say that I was healthy at 236. We too often equate health as the absence of illness, even though some ailments are less illness and more conditions. I started to think I was in poor condition back in late November when a fire alarm forced the evacuation of the floor of my building around four am. Walking down 19 flights was not a problem. It was walking back up 19 flights because the night shift at security couldn’t get the elevators running again that damn near killed me. Since I was already losing weight, I figured it was now time to get fit, too.
Since starting this program, I have had a cartoon running through my head. My friends from the east coast of Canada will remember a time with the cable company carried the Bangor affiliates of the US networks, instead of Boston. The NBC affiliate used to show cartoons in the afternoon around the time we’d get home from school. Many of these were old Tom and Jerry ‘toons and the occasional Fleisher Superman cartoon. Sometimes they’d throw in an old war bonds cartoon. The one I keep thinking about while I’m on this journey is about some mice who band together against their common foe, the household’s cat. They gather materials, recycle toothpaste tubes, etc. to build a mechanical dog to chase the cat away. The entire time, they’re singing a song “We did it before and we’ll do it again.”
And so will I.