Category Archives: Running

Baby come back


Hey baby, how YOU doin’?

I quit running last year, and our break-up was rather public. But I’ve been doing some thinking over that time, and I’ve reconsidered. Maybe if you’re not doing anything next week, we could… you know… get together?

The issue is that without you in my life, I’ve grown as a person. No, not figuratively, I’m really getting kinda big. I weigh myself every Wednesday, and have for about six years, and I record it in an Excel spreadsheet. All last year, 2011, my weight was in the 170’s except for one week in September when it went to 180.5, and the last week of December when I hit 180 again. From January until May this year, 2012, there have only been three weeks when I dropped below 180. Since that article was written, in early November, I’ve gained about 8 pounds and kept it on. My goals of hitting the weight bench never materialized, so other than my weekly (indoor) beach volleyball games from January to March, I got pretty much zero exercise through the winter. Add in my increasingly lousy eating habits, and well, let’s just say some of my large T-shirts aren’t so large anymore. And they haven’t shrunk.

So I’ve been thinking of giving you a call for a few weeks now but just like the weight bench thing, it just kinda never happened. The last straw was yesterday when I got a haircut. I got my standard summer buzz cut – #4 clippers all over. I don’t quite look like I’m joining the Marine Corps, but it’s close. This is quite a change from my shaggy “winter” haircut, so naturally when I look in the mirror the first few times after doing this, I get a bit of a shock. But this time, it wasn’t “whoa, your hair’s different”, it was “whoa, you’re fat”. And you know, the baggy XL T-shirts won’t hide the difference in your face.

So right then and there, I made the first move – I plugged my iPod Nano in to charge. I use the Nike+ thing on my iPod to track my runs, and that’s the only thing I use that iPod for (I have all my music and podcasts on a different one), so the battery was completely dead. Note that I hadn’t decided that I would go running, I just decided to plug it in so it would be ready to go… whenever I got off my lazy ass and decided to actually run. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. But over the course of the rest of that day I happened to glance in the mirror a few more times and by the end of the day, I had had enough. The iPod was charged, so I grabbed it, changed into my running shorts and shirt (after blowing the dust off of them first), and out I went – and once again, my dear, we were together again.

I walked for the first and last couple of minutes and for a couple of minutes in the middle as well, but I probably ran about 2/3 of the whole thing which ended up being 2km. Not bad for my first time in six months. Was it good for you? I was pretty tired afterwards but not completely wiped out. To be honest, I probably could have gone longer, but I didn’t want to overdo it my first time out. No, really!

The really dumb thing about this whole affair situation is that I picked the worst possible winter to not run. We had a bit of snow here and there, but it was generally gone (or minimal) on the sidewalks and roads a week later. It was also far warmer than our average winter, so there were only short stretches would I wouldn’t have been able to run outside. You know how I hate running on the treadmill, but I really could have been running outside almost all winter long.

Anyway, it felt pretty good to be back with you again. I’m not yet sure whether it was the running itself that I enjoyed yesterday, or the fact that I was running. Either way, I’m glad I went. I really hope I can stick with it this time because to be quite honest, you’re the one “mistress” that Gail really doesn’t mind me spending time with. I had a different one this past winter called “lacrosse blogging”, and Gail wasn’t so thrilled with her. She took up a fair bit of my free time, including most Friday and Saturday nights and most of the day every Sunday from January to mid-May. I may see you just as often as her but it’s for shorter periods of time, and frequently before Gail’s awake. Plus she’s happy that I’m getting exercise and staying in shape.

I know Gail doesn’t care if I have a bit of a spare tire around the middle, but I certainly do, and if you can help me get rid of it, that’d be great. Thanks babe, it’s good to have you back.

I’m sorry. It’s not you. It’s me.


I’m really sorry, my occasional companion of several years, but I think it’s over. It’s just not fun for me anymore. The first couple of years were great, and I looked forward to all the good times we’d have in the future. And then last year I got really sick and had to leave you for a while. Now I’m better but it’s just not the same between us, so I think I’m going to have to move on. I tried, I really did – this past summer I kept persevering despite my lack of enjoyment. I kept hoping I’d get that old feeling back, but I never did. It’s no use fighting it anymore.

I’ve decided to quit running.

We first met in October of 2008, when I “accidentally” ran a 5k. I meant to walk it, but decided at the last second to start off running and just never stopped. I hurt for days, but it kind of felt good at the same time, and we started our relationship. I started running regularly the next spring, and by September I was running 10-15km per week and loving it. I’d be approaching home after having run 3 or 4 km, my legs sore, sweating and breathing hard but feeling good, and think “do I still have enough in the tank to circle the block once more? Or go around this crescent, just to add an extra half-kilometre?” Sometimes I would go the extra bit, sometimes not, but the thought was always there. I looked forward to my runs and was disappointed when I got up and it was raining and I had to run on the treadmill instead. Each week or two I’d go a little bit longer until one day I ran from home along Dundas to Hollybush to Parkside to Hamilton and back along Dundas home (which I know means squat to those of you who don’t live in Waterdown), a distance of about 5.8 km. I remember the feeling I had coming home from that particular run. It was my longest ever and I still felt great. I started to think that by the next summer, running a 10k wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

I bought special running shoes and clothes. I ran outside during the winter as long as it wasn’t too cold and the ground was mostly clear. My sister and parents bought me an iPod Nano with Nike+ for my 40th birthday, and I started “broadcasting” my runs on Facebook and Twitter. I subscribed to a running magazine. I brought my running stuff on vacation with me. I was a runner. Me and you, baby, we were going hot and heavy.

And then I got sick. February 5, 2010. Severe acute necrotizing pancreatitis. I’ve written about it before so I won’t go into the details here, but in a nutshell, it was a nightmare. I spent two months in hospital, ate no solid food the whole time, had major abdominal surgery, and was off work for another 3 months after coming home. In the hospital, my exercise consisted of taking my IV pole for a walk around the floor – two laps if I was exceptionally energetic. Once I got home, it was walking up and down a flight of stairs four or five times, and then lying down on the couch because I was wiped out. I got home from the hospital at the beginning of April, and in mid-May, I started walking around the block (less than 1km). By the end of the summer I could walk several kilometres without being exhausted, but it wasn’t until November that I started actually running again. But, my dear, things were different between us.

I started off with the path I used to take when you and I were first starting out. About 3 km, and I’d run until I got tired and then walk for a while, then run again. It wasn’t as much fun as I remembered, but I’d gone through a lot and in some respects I was still recovering, so I figured I’d give it some time. I didn’t go out much during the winter, and I tried to run on the treadmill now and again but you know how it is, dear, I never liked running on that thing. Then spring came and I could run outside again. It still wasn’t great, and it took a long time before I could even run the 3k path without stopping to walk in the middle. I ran a lot in July, then fell off the wagon in August, got back on in September and have been doing OK since then. But I’ll be honest, it really hasn’t been fun for a long time.

I have yet to get back to 5k – my longest this year was 4.12km. Only a couple of times did I finish a run without stopping to walk for a couple of minutes. My stamina seemed to plateau quickly, and I got frustrated with my lack of progress. Not once did I think about running just a little longer like I used to – it was always “how long until I can stop?” Getting up early to run was a chore and I had to force myself to do it. A few times I convinced myself I heard rain so I went back to bed – only to find the ground completely dry when I did get up. Sometimes while running I decided to cut the run short because it was colder than I had expected or my legs were exceptionally sore or whatever, it was one excuse after another. But the root problem was always there – it just wasn’t fun anymore.

So my dear, I’m afraid this is the end for us.  It was fun while it lasted, and I’ll never forget some of the great times we had together, but I’ve changed and it’s just not working between us anymore. It’s an old cliché but it’s really true – it’s not you, it’s me. I still want to stay in shape, so I’m going to try and hit the weight bench a couple of times a week over the winter. I hope you’re not jealous. Maybe next spring when the weather gets nice again I might give you another try, but I can’t promise anything. Take care, sweetheart.

Meaningful statistic FAIL


I looked up my 2009 running stats on the Nike+ website this morning and saw this:

RunningStatsFail

The comparison under the total is technically true, but is off by two orders of magnitude. Even if the Leaning Tower of Pisa was 6 kilometers high, this would still be true. It’s like saying “With $1 million, you could buy at least forty iPods!”

Best. Workout music. Ever.


I went for a run this morning, and my iPod played an amazing selection of music for my listening and distracting-me-from-thinking-about-the-pain-in-my-legs pleasure. It started with Alanis Morissette’s Thank U, which is not a bad song, but I skipped it because at least half of my runs start with that song. It seems like the randomization of either the Nano or the Nike+ software really sucks for the first song – the first song is always one of about five, and it’s mostly Thank U. The rest, however, was great:

  • Neon Crossing, Our Lady Peace
  • Load Me Up, Matthew Good Band
  • Down to the Waterline, Dire Straits
  • Coming Home, The Tea Party
  • Beautiful People, Marilyn Manson
  • Gravity, Max Webster
  • The Trooper, Iron Maiden

Beautiful People is a pretty good song, but I don’t know much Marilyn Manson, so you can take them out of the equation. Other than that, each and every song is among my top 3 favourite songs by that artist.

PMH 5K Run 2009


Last year, I participated in my first 5k run, and almost killed myself doing it. This year, I decided not to let that happen again, so I’ve been training since July. As a result, not only did I feel fine the day of and the day after the race, but I beat my time from last year by almost five minutes. I finished 5km in 27 minutes 18.5 seconds, a pace of 5’50″/km. I was the 458th person (out of 2552) to cross the finish line, though that’s misleading because some people that finished ahead of me may have had a slower overall time. Unfortunately, that’s the way they order the finishers, so in terms of absolute time, I don’t know where I placed. I was 284th out of 930 men. They originally listed me as “Male under 24”, so my ranking there is meaningless as well, but doing the math myself, 25 out of 87 men in the 40-45 group finished with faster times than mine (one beat me by over ten minutes). These numbers assume that most people are listed in the right groups, though Nicky and both of my parents were also in the wrong groups, so who knows.Me and the boys with our medals (staring into the sun) I’ve emailed the people who do the stats, and they have already replied saying they can fix them, so I’ll check again before I post this and see if it’s been updated. Update from next morning: They’ve moved me over to the right group, but some other things must have changed too, because now I’m ranked 30th out of 88 men 40-45. Whatever.

It turns out that I wasn’t training quite as thoroughly for this race as I thought I was. I used my Nike+ iPod and it decided that the route was 5.49 km. Since I finished in 27’18”, that gave me a pace of 4’58”. I’m assuming the route was actually 5 km even, so I guess my iPod measures a bit long. It looks like those runs I did that were reported as 5.2 km weren’t even five and the 4.4’s were probably about four. The iPod reported after the race (with a message from Lance Armstrong!) that this was my longest workout to date, which means that none of the runs I did in practice was as long as the real race. Apparently the iPod gives you the ability to recalibrate it, so right after the race I should have selected “Calibrate” and then told it that I had just run 5.0 km, but it’s too late now. Sometime in the near future, I’ll have to drive around the block and measure exactly how long it is, and then run it and do the recalibration. Regardless, it was close enough that it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t in pain at the end of the race – I even had enough left in the tank to increase my pace (not quite sprint, but I definitely ran faster) over the last 50 metres or so.

This year Ryan and Nicky joined in the fun as well (Gail was away at a scrapbooking weekend). They walked the course with my parents and finished in about an hour. They seemed pretty excited about being part of the team, and having special t-shirts, and the sensor on their shoe, and especially getting a medal at the end (Nicky said that the 5K on the medal means that it was 5 karat gold).

To all of those who sponsored me, a huge Thank You! I raised over $300 myself, and our team raised over $3000 for gynecological cancer research at PMH.

Nike + iPod


As I mentioned recently, I’ll be running in the 5K Your Way run in October (feel free to sponsor me!) like I did last year. Last year I expected to walk and ended up running the entire thing, but I was in pain for several days afterwards, so this year I decided to train for it. I started in May, as soon as the weather got nice. I chose a path that’s about 3-3½ km long, and started out by alternating walking and running – I would walk for 90 seconds and then run for 60. The idea was that you do this for a week or two, then gradually increase the amount of time you were running until you were finally running the whole thing. I found that this plan didn’t work very well – I found that I hated the running part and while running, looked forward to when I could walk again. Then when my walking time was up, I though “Oh crap, I have to run again”. One time when I was out, I decided “Ah screw it, I’ll just run the whole thing” and I did. My legs hurt a little for a while afterwards, but I preferred just running to alternating, since I didn’t have to keep checking my watch and I didn’t have the dread of having to start running again. I took a break in July when we went to Scotland and then tried to get back into it when we came back, but was having trouble getting motivated. I was well into baseball season at that point, and I didn’t want to run hard enough that I couldn’t play my best. Not that I’m an all-star ball player or anything, but I wanted to contribute whatever I could to the team, and taking myself out of a game in the fifth inning because I couldn’t run anymore wouldn’t be much of a contribution. But then my birthday came, and everything changed.

I went up to my parents’ place the weekend after my birthday, and when it came time to open my gifts, they gave me two little boxes and told me to open the top one first. I opened it and it was a thing called Nike + iPod, which is a little sensor that you put in your shoe that communicates with a thing you attach to your iPod, and it tracks how fast and far you run and uploads that data to the nikerunning.com website so you can keep track of your runs. Very cool, but right on the box, it said “Requires iPod Nano“. My iPod is a 80 GB 5G, but I thought that maybe Trudy (who has an iPod Classic similar to mine) had done some research and found that it works with my iPod as well. Nicky, sitting beside me, grabbed the second gift box and said “Maybe this is an iPod Nano!”  I gave a little chuckle and said “maybe”, not for an instant thinking he was right. Of course, he was – it was a beautiful silver Nano.

I don’t wear Nike shoes. I’ve had Nikes before and they never seem to fit my feet properly. But the Nike+ sensor is supposed to go into a little cut-out inside some pairs of Nike shoes, so I had to improvise by stuffing it under the insole in my Reebok’s. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. It’s amazing how much this little thing has changed my workout patterns. I started running once or twice a week, and found that my legs quickly adapted, and while they would be sore for an hour or two after the runs, I was still able to play baseball and didn’t suck any worse than I usually do. By the end of August, I was running at least twice a week, and my distances were growing as well. I don’t think the sensor was completely accurate for me (perhaps it slides around under my foot and that affects its distance calculations) – Google Maps thinks my original route is about 3.9 km, but Nike+ has recorded it as anywhere between 4.3 and 5.48 km. I did run a little further than normal on the second one, but not a full kilometre and a half. I recently bought a Shoe Pouch for the sensor that fits on top of the shoe, which works very nicely. The distances are more consistent now so I end up trusting them more.

The device itself is very cool – you can tell it you want to work out over a predetermined distance or just keep running until you say stop. Then you pick a playlist and say “go”, and it starts recording and playing the playlist. When you’re done, it tells you how far you ran (or walked – it can tell the difference), how long it took, your average pace, and how many calories you burned. You can also choose a “power song”, which it plays if you press and hold the center button down. The idea here is that if you need some inspiration, you can play your favourite pick-me-up song whenever you want. The next time you sync your iPod, it will update your Nike+ account.

The Nike+ site is pretty Flash-heavy but slick, showing each run you recorded, when it happened, and how long you went. It will also show you a graph of your pace throughout the run, with a little mark at each kilometre point, as well as whenever you pressed the centre button during the run (which updates you on how far you’ve gone and how long it’s been) or played your power song. It keeps track of your fastest mile (7’30”), 5k (21’31” – though I think that was based on the 4+ km run I did that it recorded as 5.48, so it’s unreasonably low), and 10k (none… yet), as well as your total number of workouts (15), kilometres (61.50), length of time (5:20:49), calories burned (4989), and average pace (5:13/km). You can set up goals (i.e. run 10 times within 4 weeks (which I just completed the other day! Yay me!), or run some number of total kilometres in so many weeks), or join challenges, which are competitions in which you join a team of people with something in common (could be men vs. woman, or something like fans of different baseball teams) and add to the total for your team.

I hooked up the Nike site with my facebook account so whenever I sync my iPod, it updates my facebook status with the results of my latest run (eg. “Graeme ran 4.41 km on 9/25/2009 at 11:37 AM with a pace of 5’20″/km“). I did this with the idea that if I broadcast to everyone whenever I run, I have some accountability. If I skip a week or run shorter than usual, everyone will notice. Of course nobody will really notice – nobody’s paying that close attention to my running patterns. But it still sticks in my mind when I’m thinking of cutting a corner or taking the shorter path, “people are going to see 3.8 km instead of 4.4 and think I wimped out, so I’ll take the longer route”. And I do, and I end up glad that I did. Amazing, the power of peer pressure, even imagined peer pressure.

If you are a runner, or want to be, I highly recommend the Nike + iPod. Not only is the Nano a slick little piece of hardware, but the Nike+ part is very motivational. Well, not really motivational, but it certainly makes it more fun. I ran 5k once last year, and that afternoon I couldn’t walk down a flight of stairs. The next day I had to work at home. I was in pain for three or four days. I’ve been training with this thing seriously for only about a month, and last week I came within 1 km (4.53, 5.2, and 4.4 km, a total of 14.13km) of doing the 5k run three times in five days.

Help make cancer history


In October of last year, I participated in the 5K Your Way run, part of the Toronto Marathon, to raise money for cancer research at Princess Margaret hospital. Princess Margaret was where my sister Trudy went for her cancer surgery last year, and thanks to their early diagnosis and subsequent surgery, she is now cancer-free. Obviously this is a very important cause for me, so once again I’m looking for donations for this year’s event. Last year, our team raised over $6000, of which I personally raised $480. My goal for this year is to surpass both the amount we raised and to beat my running time from last year. I have been training most of the summer, so I should be able to run the 5k race and climb up and down a set of stairs on the same day.

Any donation you can make is very much appreciated. Click here to visit my personal page where you can sponsor me. Don’t forget to click “Go To Team Page” above the lovely picture of me and Trudy and check out the list of team members and a picture of all of us from last year’s run – you can even sponsor my kids or Trudy directly if you’d prefer.

To those who do sponsor me and those have done so already, thank you very much for helping Princess Margaret hospital in their quest to eliminate cancer in our lifetime.