Tag Archives: weight loss

The saga continues…

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

Kind of failed miserably on that one.

In a nutshell:

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

I learned a few lessons from solo training this summer:

1. I can do it.

2 Running alone sucks.

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

I think those are self-explanatory.

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

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

My promo photo

How’s that for an “after” photo?

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

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

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

IMG_0917

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

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

It’s time to start a new adventure.

Allons-y!

Advertisements

The Big Picture

A couple of weeks ago, I ran the Santa Shuffle 5K out at Tunney’s Pasture with Kalin and my clinic. It was a nice race in support of the Salvation Army. Given the recent news here in Ottawa and in Toronto they could certainly use the help this year (not that they can’t use it year round).

In terms of my own performance, I ran a personal best. The course was a little short of 5K, 4.8K, but I ran it in 22 min 44 sec. Another 200 m and I still would have PB’d in the  23 min range.

That’s not the story I want to tell with this post.

For ten weeks ending with that race, Kalin and I taught our first 5K clinic together. It was really fun having a co-instructor. The one problem I had with 5K clinics is that the paces the participants want to run are so varied that it becomes impossible to adequately supervise the group as the runners spread further apart as distance and pace increase. With a second instructor, we can place ourselves strategically amongst the pack to supervise the participants better than one alone could.

We had a pretty good group. It was definitely my favourite clinic to date.

Our before picture. It was only -12 degrees that morning.

Our before picture. It was only -12 degrees that morning.

We had pretty consistent attendance despite the onset of winter’s cold. Most of them were doing a clinic for the second time or coming back to running after a few years away. There were even two girls from my original Learn to Run clinic last year. It took a couple of classes before they recognized me.

It was Karine we all fell in love with, though.

Karine is a middle school special needs teacher. She ran a fun with her school some time ago. It was a disaster. She finished so poorly, students teased her. Middle-schoolers are notoriously awful creatures. They’re hitting puberty, dealing with hormones and still behave like self-entitled bitches and bastards that haven’t been slapped down by reality yet. At some point in high school, usually when they start asking the folks for the car keys, they regain their humanity.

Karine enrolled in her first clinic to get ready for the Army Run 5K, which she finished in 49 minutes. Now she wanted to do better.

She showed up for almost every run. Only the occasional parent-teacher conference kept her away. Over the course of the clinic, she would tell Kalin that she also took up swimming. She lost a few pounds. Her relationship with her boyfriend was improving. Her anxiety issues were improving.

Kalin was especially encouraging and even offered to run with her during the race.

Since I made it to the finish ahead of the clinic, I quickly collected the bling and made it through the thankfully short gauntlet to get in a position along the route to cheer my clinic on as they made their final push. Kalin and I call this “pulling a Lawrence” after our friend Lawrence Wright. Of course, who do I run into during this, but Lawrence himself.

As they came into the finish, one by one I cheered them on. For Karine and Kalin, though, I had something special planned. I would hop out from the sidelines and run with them to the finish.

Kalin pretty much had the same idea. She just didn’t tell me. As they rounded the last turn and approached my position, I could hear Kalin shout, “Okay, Karine, we’re going to sprint to the finish!” They would start where I was. I ran with them those last 250m to the finish. As she crossed the finish line, I could see the tears well up and freeze as they rolled down her cheeks.

On the other side of the finish line, the rest of our clinic was waiting for her, too. Hugs all around.

She had done it. It was only a matter of what her time was. Kalin looked at her Garmin (the race wasn’t chip timed) and tried to do her best Jeremy Clarkson impression, but her giddiness got the best of her. “Karine, you did it in 38 minutes, forty-four seconds.”

Wow. We were all so proud of her. The cold chased us inside, though, and we gathered for one more group photo.

You know how your told as a kid to not touch cold metal with bare skin? We totally ignored that.

You know how your told as a kid to not touch cold metal with bare skin? We totally ignored that.

Proud of my crew. They reminded me these clinics aren’t about the instructors, but the participants. When I agreed to teach this clinic, it was only on a temporary basis. I was up for a few jobs that would have limited my evening availability. I even asked Kalin to help, figuring between the two of us,  one would be able to make it most nights. As those fell through, it became obvious Kalin and I would see this group through to race day. In the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now on to the next one.

Allons-y!

Motivation Redux

Crazy couple of weeks. I got a little busy and didn’t find the time to write a blog post. Thought this week I would turn to a an old topic: motivation.

This past Monday, I was asked to speak to the Slater Running Room’s For Women Only clinic on the topic of motivation. I normally start by telling the story of my weight loss. You can get the Cliff Notes versions in a series I wrote at the beginning of the year. So You Say You Want a Resolution: Part 1, Part 2,Part 3. For the more visually inclined, check out the Journey in Photos.

I’ve written a lot about the various friends that have inspired and motivated me over this journey. One person who inspired me immensely is Randy Pausch of the Last Lecture fame. Here is the most famous university lecture ever:

My favourite part is when he talks about brick walls. Brick walls are there to give us the opportunity to prove to ourselves how badly we want things.

Whether it’s weight loss, running, work or whatever, life is going to throw a few brick walls between us and our goals. It’s how we deal with them that will determine if we’re going to succeed. While I’d like to offer the stereotypical alpha-male response and tell you to just power through it, it’s rather stupid advice. Some of the brick walls that life throws up may be injuries which will require you seek professional advice and modulate your goals. Remember, delaying a goal is not denying a goal.

Since it’s November, there is a proverbial elephant in the room: winter is coming. Even if it ends up being a mild one, the days will be short. We’ll soon be going to from work in darkness. This is the time of year one needs motivation in spades. While the end of daylight savings time means that we’re still leaving for the day in daylight for a couple more days, pretty soon my morning workout and evening run will be in darkness.

This Thursday was a good example of needing an extra dose motivation. I got to bed Wednesday night at a reasonable hour, but for some reason I woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for two hours. I was pretty zonked when 6 am came and I had to decide to go to my Greco Lean and Fit class, sleep an hour and go the 8 o’clock Extreme Lean class. I decided to drag my sorry ass to the 7 am class. Why 7? I have more friends at that class now than the 8 am class.

Tip #1 – keep it social. The reason I was and remain successful on this journey is because it became part of my social life. I see my Greco and Running Room friends more than I do my family. That’s not to say they’re as close as my family, they have a long way to go to reach that status, but I miss them when I’m not there or one of them isn’t there.

Tip #2 – put your money down. My previous job had a workout room in one of its buildings. My apartment building has a very nice workout room, too. Frankly, if it wasn’t attached to the laundry room, I would probably never grace its presence (the swimming is another matter. Love swimming). Paying for a trainer, paying for a Running Room clinic helped motivate me by making me want to make the maximum return on investment. My father is a financial planner, so it helped me to think of how to achieve my goals in terms of strategic investments. By investing what little extra money I had in a trainer then in running clinics, I forced myself to get through those blocks and plateaus so I could get the ROI I wanted.

Tip #3 – be ready. I pack my gym/running gear the night before. At the simplest, it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning. The less I have to worry about, the better I sleep. The better I sleep, the more I get out of a workout. At a higher level, it readies the mind for the next day’s workout and you wake up conditioned to start your day with exercise.

You know who else always has their gear ready? Superheroes. Peter Parker is always a quick change away from being Spiderman. Clark Kent is an even quicker change away from being Superman. Even Tony Stark has a set of armour that collapses into a briefcase so he can become Iron Man at a moment’s notice.

Just as a superhero can never not be a superhero, a runner can never not be a runner. A runner should be as ready to run as a superhero is ready to save the world. Our tights are more colourful, too.

I’m going to need to stay motivated in the next year. I’ve decided I’m not running the half-marathon on Ottawa Race Weekend. Kalin and I are going to run the full marathon.

Allons-y!

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!

Motivation

Hey, remember me?

I’m back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one gets my sense of humour.

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

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

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

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

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

Fat Michael

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

Remember, no Algernons here.

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

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

Allons-y!

Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allons-y!

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 2 – Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

Where last left our intrepid hero

How does one follow-up a sub-2 hour finish in their first half-marathon?

Most people would go home, crack open a beer, and chill out. Let the body recover while you revel in your well-earned sense of accomplishment.

I did two of those three. Chill out and recovery would have to wait for the evening. I had another medal to collect:

the Queen’s Diamond Jublilee Medal

I have to admit I was rather stunned to hear that my old boss, the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, had nominated me for the medal.  Until I started writing this blog, I wasn’t exactly boastful of my own accomplishments in large part because they were in the service of someone else. In fact, I started writing this blog not to promote what I was doing but to give myself a weekly dose of humility.

Well, that and I have some family members on Facebook that notorious gossip hounds and wanted to prevent the inevitable phone calls to my parents wondering if I had “caught the diabetes”. One of the things I’ve learned in politics over the years is to get ahead of the story and set the narrative, even if it is a good news one. Especially if it is a good news one.

In addition to my twelve years of parliamentary service with the Speaker, I’ve done a lot of pro-bono work for some struggling non-profits who have been languishing and need revitalizing. A lot of these have been Catholic charities, the leadership of these has been getting older (like collecting pensions older) and a certain amount of lethargy has set in. While I could charge for these services, a dollar collected is a dollar not going to their programmes which would be counterproductive to my aims with these groups. I’ve also acted as an unofficial advisor to a few non-Catholic organizations over the years. They know who they are.

The Speaker also wanted to recognize my new-found passion for physical fitness. He was also particularly moved by the fact that I took the story public with this blog and, later, the Running Room magazine article.

So after I emerged from the recovery area and waded through the throngs of people in Confederation Park , Kalin and I rushed back to the apartment. By the time we got back, I was pretty spent. Since the race grounds were pure crowds and chaos, I held off on doing some post-run stretches until we got back. Someone got a little snap happy with the camera.

I was really thankful to be bumped into the first wave. The medal ceremony was to be held in the Senate Chamber at 1:30 pm, little more than two hours after finishing the race. The early start gave us a little breathing room. Frankly, I’m not sure if I would have made it on time otherwise. It even gave me the chance to have a quick beer afterward. I had a can of Michelob Ultra. They were doing a promotion at the race and were giving them away four at a time. Between Kalin and myself, I had eight cold ones in the fridge. It’s the best beer I ever drank after running a half-marathon.

I know, it’s the only beer I ever drank after running a half-marathon.

As I sat for a minute to soak in what I had just accomplished, another sign of that accomplishment began to set in: tense muscles. Relaxation would have to wait, I told myself. If I don’t get up now, I’m down for the day.

I lifted myself up and headed to the shower. I washed and shaved as quickly as I could and then threw on the suit. The new suit. The one I ordered from Indochino. Fit like a charm.

As we left my building, one thing was abundantly clear: me and steps were not going to get along this afternoon.

With just a brief stop to meet up with Vicky, we made it to Centre Block on time. We had to fight some crowded sidewalks and jammed up intersections to do it, but we made. After being scanned in by security, something new now that I’m not an employee, I slowly made my way up the marble steps to the Senate foyer. With every step I thought to myself…

I should have taken the elevator.

Ow.

Ow.

Ow.

While we made it on time, the ceremony was delayed because someone did not. Take a guess who that was. Someone learned the hard way that Race Weekend traffic is a bitch. I learned it the hard way a few years ago when Christian ran his first half and it took me 90 minutes to get the Greek Souvlaki House on the corner of Riverside and Prince Wales from Slater St.

The ceremony itself was quite lovely and I was honoured to hear my name called among the many that were honoured that day. I was very thankful that Kalin and Vicky could attend with me. There were a few others I would have invited, but knew they had other commitments that weekend.

That I was getting it from Speaker Kinsella was all the more fitting. He was more than an employer for the last 12 years. He was also a mentor and huge supporter of my academic pursuits. He even trusted me with his students and to occasionally fill in for him at a conference when he was double booked.

After the ceremony had concluded, there was a group photo of the recipients. At this point, the effects of the race were taking its toll on my body. I had to hold back making old man noises as I got out of my chair. As I lined up with my fellow recipients, Peter Quail, the former head of the Canadian branch of the Knights of Malta, looked at me and said in his heavy British accent, “My, you’re looking solemn today, Dr. Read.”

I explained what I had done earlier in the day. He was rather shocked I was even able to stand.

We stayed for the reception for a bit so I could some get some liquids into me. Instead of the usual white wine I would drink at our receptions when I worked there, I was sucking back Perrier mineral water like it was  …. umm … regular water. For those that don’t know, the mineral in mineral water is mostly sodium, a very valuable electrolyte after physical activity.

I also got to show off my race bling to the my former coworkers. Everyone had fun with the fact that the maple leaf in the medal spins. I really enjoyed the chance to show off the Speaker’s quarters to Kalin, which is not on the public tour. She really digs history and architecture, so she was like a kid in a candy shop. When I showed her the Speaker’s mace and the constitution table, I had to talk her into having her picture taken with the table. She had such reverence for what these artifacts represented she thought it was inappropriate.

The reception was a nice opportunity to catch up with the Speaker and my old colleagues. It was a great afternoon. We stayed as long as I could literally remain standing and then headed back to the apartment. I could feel the energy from my post-race nutrition leave my body. We would have liked to have been able to swing by the Highlander and shown off the race bling and medal, but a) it looked as if it was going to rain and neither of us had an umbrella and b)there’s no such thing as a quick visit to the Highlander for us. It’s not that we’re alcoholics. They go to meetings. We have a lot of friends that work there.

We made it back to the apartment and changed into comfy clothes, but not before a few more pictures.

The recipient.

And then a self portrait of Kalin and I.

 This photo ended up scaring the bejeesus out of her mother. When Kalin sent it to her, she thought it was a professional photo … and an engagement photo. Kalin calmed her down when she explained how it was just a selfie on my iPhone.

Changing into the comfy clothes for me meant finally wearing the race shirt. Some of my running friends subscribe to the theory that you never wear the race shirt until after the race. The belief is it’s bad luck because you haven’t earned it until after the race. I didn’t subscribe to that during my 5K days, mostly because with my declining weight the race shirt was often the only one I had that fit adequately. I decided not to mock the running Gods for the half.

After dinner, the sun came back out so we went down to the terrace with some drinks.  I smoked my first cigar since beginning my training. We ended up having a delightful conversation with one of my older neighbours, a delightful gentleman who is a retired Lt. Colonel from the Van Doos. He actually ran one of the first Ottawa Marathons before there was even a race weekend.

So that’s the story about Two Medal Sunday. Now that I’ve given my legs a bit of rest, I’m already getting ready for my next half-marathon, the Army Run in September, and am again pace leading the 2 hour group for the clinic.  I’ll be back at Greco on Monday for a workout. As much as I enjoyed picking up two medals in a day, one is more than enough.

The weekend’s accomplishments were great, but no excuse to rest on my laurels. The journey continues.

Allons-y!

In Praise of Food Porn (Reader Discretion Advised)

Soft focus.

Sensuous music.

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

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

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

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

More specifically, I discovered Giada:

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

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

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

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

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

In the end, it was an awful one.

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

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

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

Enter food porn.

Bow chicka wow wow.

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

Umm

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

Yeah. That’s it.

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

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

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

Oh wait. That happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allons-y!