Wednesday, July 29, 2009

August 2009 Personal Challenges

I have two challenges to focus on for the month of August. I'm finding that posting challenges/goals on this blog gives me the motivational boost I need to complete those challenges. This months challenges are a) drop weight to 169 lbs. from 175, the weight I have been maintaining since my last weight loss challenge ended successfully on July 9 and b) run 180 km.

Here's the why and the how of my two challenges:

a) Drop Weight to 169 lbs.


  • I'm close to my ideal weight, but not quite there. Ultimately, I want to reach 160 and maintain at that, but I also don't want to do it too rapidly.

  • Why 169 and not 170 - it just feels better! I've broken the 170 barrier and am now in the 160's. It's the equivalent of pricing a product at 4.99 instead of 5.00...

  • To help my running speed.

  • To reduce the chance of lower body injury.

  • My fiance just bought me shorts with a 32" waist and I'm at around a 33. Not bad, considering I was 38 not so long ago...

  • Vanity!

  • To increase chances of living longer and healthier.

How (pretty much a repeat of my last weight loss challenge - stick with what works!):

  • No food after dinner.

  • No sugar drinks.

  • No packaged junk food (chocolate bars, chips, etc.)

  • Exercise each and every day.

  • Keep water consumption at at least 64 ounces per day (I include my green tea addiction in those numbers)

  • Give regular updates on this blog.

  • Review the reasons 'why' given above on a daily basis.

  • Continuing my vegan lifestyle.

I'm pretty confident that I will be successful in this challenge. In maintaining my weight since July 9, I have dropped as low as 172 and at no point did I feel I was starving myself.

b) Run 180 km.


  • To be able to go longer, faster.

  • To push myself eventually toward ultra-marathons.

  • I simply love to run.

  • The health benefits are too numerous to mention.

  • To be a positive influence on my family.


  • Make running a priority over other activities.

  • Run 6 days per week.

  • Put in longer, long runs.

  • Stay in tune with body to ensure going injury-free.

I would like it known that these short term challenges/goals are not just randomly picked from a hat. They are meant to bring focus and accelerate my larger goals. I also do not become reckless in the pursuit of success. I know my body's needs and capabilities and I learn more about those needs and capabilities every day. And, I share my bed with a nurse who would never let me do something careless with my physical health!

Watch for updates coming soon!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Race Schedule Change

Because of money, time and family, getting to the Montreal half-marathon in September has fallen off my list and I'm in the process of changing my race schedule for 2009 slightly. Instead, I'm opting for a race a little smaller, a little cheaper and much closer to home.

I'm 90% decided on The Run For The Grapes 1/2 Marathon in St. Catherines, Ontario on Sunday, September 20, 2009. The race is an hour and a half from home, meaning I won't have to pay for a hotel room. The distance is desirable and is the headliner for this race, not playing second-fiddle to a full marathon. The course is scenic, running through the city of St.Catherines and out of town into the region's wine country before returning back to town. The entrance fee is close to half of what the Montreal race is. The field is much smaller with only 400 finishers in 2008 compared with thousands in Montreal. And - the profile of the course is very flat. Not that I don't like hills and actually do quite well with them, but I'd like to push it and see what kind of time I can put up, possibly competing with my PR of 1:45:00 I put in at the Toronto half a few years ago.

I will still be trying to complete my personal challenge of running the 615km from Orangeville, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec by the date of the Montreal race. I really need to start putting up some mileage if I want to achieve that goal. One of the personal challenges for August that I will be announcing shortly will push me to achieve that although, realistically, I'm running out of time...

For those not from Ontario or Upstate New York, St. Catherines is a city along the shores of Lake Ontario, between Niagara Falls and Hamilton. It is part of the Golden Horseshoe region that is home to a very large portion of the Canadian population.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Humans: Natural Carnivores???

For years, I have heard people try and convince others and themselves that humans were naturally made to eat meat. I have been reading a lot on the internet lately that refutes that claim. The fact that we lack the built in tools to be a carnivore is a strong argument that we were meant to be vegans. Without hand made tools, we have a very hard time killing another being with our bare hands. Even if we could, we're too big and slow to actually catch anything other than a sloth, and they'd rip us to shreds if we tried.

We also lack the mindset to be true carnivores. We, unless insane, no not have the instinct to rip apart an animal with our bare hands and our teeth. Those who 'hunt' now get off on the thrill of the chase and usually kill their 'prey' from a distance and most all feel squeamish if they have to 'finish off' the job with a knife because the bullet didn't quite do it. I'm willing to bet there are not a lot of hunters out there who pounce on their kill, rip it open with claws and teeth and eat the flesh warm and raw.

There's one article in particular that I came across. Scientifically-Credible Information on Vegan and Vegetarian Diets by Lauri Forti provides awesome insight and scientific details about us not being meant to be meat eaters.

The article can be found here and is a great read. Please find the time to check it out and share it with others.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bravo George Laraque!

As of June 1, 2009, hulking NHL hockey player, and fighter extraordinaire, Georges Laraque has made the move from vegetarian to vegan.

Weighing in at 255 lbs. on a 6'3" frame, Georges definitely is going to smash some of the evil vegan stereotypes. His NHL career began in 1997 with the Edmonton Oilers and after stops in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, he is now a Montreal Canadien.

For those who are not fans of hockey, Georges is one of the league's best tough guys who also brings leadership and can score on occasion as well.

Georges is a huge animal rights activist and does work with various animal rights organizations. More information is available through his personal website.

I would just like to wish Georges all the best in his latest commitment and to thank him for going public with his decision. Not that we need anyone's approval to be vegan, but when professional athletes become vegan, it brings veganism good press and the nay-sayers tend to accept the lifestyle a little bit more.

Follow My Running at RunningAHEAD

For well over a month now, I've had the add-on you see in the right-hand column of this blog. It shows the distances of my latest three runs. What I did not realize until today was that if you click on any of the three distances, you are taken to my summary page at From here you can see all my courses, including maps; a list of all my workouts, sortable by date, distance, time or pace; as well as equipment (shoes), calendar, PR's and a statistical summary of my training to date.

I've raved about RunningAHEAD in the past, but I have to say it again - if you're a runner of any ability and are looking for an awesome internet based and FREE log, look no further!

My motive in telling you this is not to advertise for RunningAHEAD. I have no professional relationship with that person (yes, it is run by one person) whatsoever. My purpose in this is the same as announcing on this blog that I would lose 10lbs. between June 9 and July 9. When you make things public, there is suddenly an urgency to follow through.

Now that my running stats are accessible by all, I will be spurred on to start putting in the mileage I should (still avoiding over-training, of course...) to further achieve my running and fitness goals.

An interesting route that I made up on the site is worth checking out. At the start of 2009, I created a route from Lisbon, Portugal to Venice, Italy spanning some 2300-2400 km. I had hopes of completing this by the end of the year. Unfortunately, I didn't take in the amount of cross-training that I do (and a ton of other excuses!) and I am only at 607km - not including the run I'm about to embark on this evening after my workout. This puts me somewhere around downtown Madrid, Spain. However, there is still hope and by publicising it, it just might happen!

Vegan Spanish - Part II

In Part I of Vegan Spanish, I gave the translation of some fruits and vegetables as well as some simple phrases that will come in handy at a restaurant, market or resort in Latin America.

In Part II, I'll give you the dark side. These are the words that you should be on the look out for and should avoid! What follows is 10 translations of words involving meat. What follows that are 3 simple phrases that may or may not help you explain your voluntary avoidance of all meat products.

Lesson II


carne = meat (look out for this one as it comes combined in many forms - usually involving beef)
chorizo = sausage
pescado = fish
pavo = turkey
jamón = ham
langosta = lobster
camarones = shrimp
cerdo = pork
pollo* = chicken
mariscos = shellfish
* watch for "Pollo Feliz" restaurants in the Southwest USA and Mexico - the translation = "The Happy Chicken" - now, how many happy chickens do you really think there are hanging around the ol' deep fryer??? This was first pointed out to me by a tour guide in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 2005.


Por supuesto, soy serio! Ninguna carne para mí, por favor! = Of course, I'm serious! No meat for me, please!

Donde está el medico? Yo he comido la carne. = Where is the doctor? I have eaten meat.

Las vacas son lindas. No los coma! = Cows are cute! Don't eat them!

If anyone has any corrections for the above material, please let me know! I'm good at engaging in everyday conversation in Spanish, but making up semi-humorous phrases out of the blue can easily get screwed up in the translation! I do use BabelFish for help but only count on it for single words and accent placement. If you are familiar with two or more languages, for a laugh, try translating sentences from one language to another in BabelFish. It is quite funny how inaccurate this relatively new internet service is at this point in time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Virtual Run to Montreal - Update

As of tonight's run, I am now at 193.3km completed of my 615km virtual run from Orangeville, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec. The somewhat short 6.5km run topped off a pretty successful day. I began with a nice 1 hour workout, followed by an hour of hockey, followed by the 6.5 that was run at a blistering 5:28/km pace. Considering I was intentionally shortening my stride and running relaxed to try and nurse a nagging left hip pain, shaving 1:21 off my previous best time on one of my most often run courses was pretty amazing. I even double checked the route on to see if maybe I'd unintentionally taken a shortcut along the way.

The nagging hip pain seems to be in check. I think it's an after effect of the evil hills at the Rattlesnake 12.7km trail run last weekend. I have just over a month before the Midsummer Night's Run 30km in Toronto, so I need to start pushing up the mileage again.

193.3 km away from Orangeville puts me back on highway 7, between Norwood, ON and Havelock, ON. The names of these towns, and any others between this point and Montreal, really will mean nothing to readers not familiar with Eastern Ontario. However, trust me when I say that this is a beautiful road to travel.

Vegan Spanish - Part I

One of my other loves is learning different languages. One of the languages which I have excelled at is Spanish. My journey in Spanish started in late 2004 as I prepared for my first ever all-inclusive vacation in Mexico.

In March 2005 for a week in Rincón de Guayabitos, Mexicó, I was able to at least read signs and understand some of what was being said around the bars. By November 2008, shortly after going vegan, I was able to converse with staff at an AI resort in Cuba. This was important because much of the staff at the 3 and 3+ star resorts that are at the upper limit of my budget cannot speak English. Having to explain that I no longer eat meat was much easier when I was able to explain it in their language.

The added bonus is that the bar staff treat you so much better!

So - in order to enhance your next visit to the sunny south (my next visit is Panama in November...), I'm starting a series of simple Spanish lessons geared to the vegan tourist. The lessons will be simple, consisting of 10 vocabulary words and 3 phrases.

Lesson I


piña = pineapple
calabaza = pumpkin (common at the buffet in Cuba)
uva = grape
seta = mushroom
limón = lemon
naranja = orange
manzana = apple
maíz = corn
ajo = garlic
judías = beans


No como la carne. = I don't eat meat.
Soy un vegano. = I'm a vegan.
También, no como queso. = Also, I don't eat cheese.

I hope this comes in handy and starts you on your way to understanding a little more when eating in the Caribbean, Mexico, or any Latin American locale. Lesson II will cover the dark side - meat. It's probably more important to know the words for the things you don't want to eat than those you do!

If you are interested in learning Spanish, or any language, try Lingo Zone. Lingo Zone is a great site to meet and chat with people around the world. You can easily be matched up with someone who's native tongue is the language you're trying to learn and who is trying to learn your language. As with all social sites, there are spammers - be aware!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Race Report - 5 Peaks Rattlesnake Point 12.7km

Believe it or not, Saturday, July 11, 2009 was the first time I've ever been in a running race that was delayed due to thunder storms. The Rattlesnake Point 12.7 km trail race is part of the Southern Ontario 5 Peaks trail running series. It's the only one of the series of races that I will run this year but I'm considering them all next season.

True to the criteria I set out in my 2009 race schedule post, this was a unique and interesting race. If it had been dry, the terrain would still have been somewhat treacherous. After being delayed 45 minutes because of a storm featuring a downpour, the course was a muddy, rocky, vertical mess. Without ever seeing the course, I had set a goal of 5:45 per km. I actually came close at 5:53 but I worked extremely hard to get that due to the mostly single track trail and rugged conditions.

The course is located along the Niagara Escarpment near Milton, Ontario (just west of Toronto). The escarpment is infamous for its rocks and cliffs. Some of the rocky climbs during this race could almost be considered cliffs. Luckily, you don't have to take my word for it. I had the fortune of following the cameraman from and their web site contains a video of the race partially filmed from a helmet cam by an actual runner in the race. I do appear in the video, however there is no timer on the video so I can't tell you the exact point. (Update: If you go full screen, there is a timer and I appear at 1:35 and last for a few seconds.) All I can tell you is that you see my back and I'm wearing a dark blue Adidas tech shirt with faded green Adidas shorts and a really faded black Adidas hat. Do I support Adidas? No. Just blind luck that I'd be wearing the Adidas ensemble. I was wearing a pair of New Balance 767's that were retired after the race after putting in around 750 km.

It was a great run. I finished exactly halfway in my age class and somewhere around halfway overall. It was hard to gage positioning because it was a wave start. It didn't really matter anyway. There was a friendly atmosphere that you might not find at a road race I think mostly due to being out in nature and all being in it together against whatever Mother Nature could fire our way.


I just want to say that I still have Ontario Provincial Park day passes available for anyone who wants one (or two, or three...). See this post for more details.

Also, anyone wanting my copy of The Man Who Swam The Amazon can see this post. It's still up for grabs.

Challenge Update - Weight Loss Goal Achieved!

On July 7, 2009, I tipped the scales at 175 pounds. As I stated in my post on June 7, 2009, I would drop 10 lbs. from 185. As a result of not only losing the 10 lbs, but also as a result of consistently doing the things I needed to do to achieve this goal, I feel great physically, I feel great mentally and I look fantastic!

In my original post, I stated 10 things that would help me to achieve this goal. I utilized all these ten 'tools', however some carried much more value than others.
  • I refrained from sugar drinks. I believe this is one of the biggest problems with society today. Carbonated drinks are nothing but poison (just read the label! You need a degree in chemistry to understand what you're drinking.) and one of the major causes of obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  • No eating between dinner and bedtime. This one is huge for me because if I decide to have a 'deserved' salad after working out, running and playing hockey - it awakens a monster within that cannot be controlled without several trips to the kitchen! Besides, I'm able to stay awake longer without the full stomach and it is much easier to get up in the morning when you have something immediate to look forward to (breakfast!).
  • EXERCISE!!! Running, working out and 3 weekly nights of hockey - It's gotta help! Throw in a bit of cycling and a new focus on the abs for good measure.
  • Commitment. By putting my goals on this blog and pretending that a huge crowd is reading it actually got me through some days where I felt like breaking down and sitting in front of the TV all night with a bag of chips and a jar of salsa.
  • Portion control. Yes, being a vegan means being able to eat a little more than a omnivore, but it still does you no good to stuff yourself. It makes you feel like shit and takes away from the time you could be exercising. Instead of two plate loads of food, I reduced my intake down to one moderate plate or bowl.

That's it. That's all it takes. It can be argued day and night whether my addiction to green tea helped as well, but the above five items were what powered me through. It wasn't too long ago that I was hopelessly stuck at 207 lbs. I almost believed that that was just the way it went when you aged and I would have to live with it and start getting my collection of daily pills from my doctor. So, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I'm now 32 lbs. lighter than I was in 2005. I could still stand to lose maybe 5 more pounds, but I'm pretty much where I want to be and believe me, I'm going to keep it that way.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finding Your Happy Place

There’s a dream that I have often. I’m running on a trail in the woods. Meandering along the left side of the trail like an old companion is a fast running brook. On the other side of the trail is a steep climb but it never affects the trail. The trail runs relatively flat and smooth. The temperature is perfect. It is summer and the days are long. I’m running at dusk, but dusk lasts forever as does the trail. Never do I pass over a road or through civilization. I’m breathing hard but am not out of breath. I’m as swift as the wind, but I’m at an easy stride. It’s just an endless run through the woods, beside the brook.

This is one of my happy places. Many times in the movies, you hear the psychiatrist telling his/her patient to find his/her happy place. Many times, I was in a stressful situation and looked for my happy place but was unable to find it. I started to think about this more often and not just during a stressful situation. I started to realize that I have several re-occurring dreams that have been with me for a long, long time. Some have been with me since I was a kid. In these dreams I found not just my happy place but my happy places.

There’s also the spring fed pond back in the woods that is crystal clear and teeming with fish. This dream stems from my love for fishing when I was young. Although I no longer wish to catch or eat fish, I love to see them as they are one of the earth’s most diverse and beautiful creatures.

In fact, most of my happy places involve trails, crystal clear water and Mother Nature’s isolation. The only exception that I can think of is being in New York City in the summer time. But there is a similarity. When I visit Manhattan, even though I am surrounded by millions of people, I feel safer than being in any other city that I’ve ever visited. I also feel a strange and comforting isolation. I believe it’s in knowing that not one of those millions of people even knows I’m there. It’s as though I’m invisible. However, there is still the comforting feeling that I would immediately become visible if in distress and would be helped by many of the incredibly compassionate people of that great city.

Okay, so New York isn’t actually one of my re-occurring dreams but it is one of my happy places. We are always trying to find the meaning in re-occurring dreams. Sure, some aren’t very pleasant for some people but if you’re like me, most of them are. I now believe the meaning of giving us these dreams over and over is to imprint in our minds a happy place to easily get away to when the mental going get’s a little too tough to handle.

Keep an eye out for these locations while you sleep. It might not be a full dream. It might only be a smidge of an image. Remember them and how happy they make you feel inside. Recall them the next time you’re in the dentist’s chair, or taking off in an airplane or making a speech at your best friend’s wedding. Take a little vacation at your happy place then get on with what you have to do with a refreshed mind.

Living In The Present

It wasn't exactly at the time I turned 40, but it was the benchmark age that was constantly going through my head. Shortly before the big 4-0, I found that I was falling into the habit of trying to calculate time that had passed by in life and trying to compare that to how much time I thought I had left. This is probably the most futile thing a person can do! I found that some things that happened 20 and even 30 to 35 years ago stood out so vivid as if they'd happened yesterday (a blink of an eye, so to speak) and some things that happened 2, 5 or 10 years ago were a complete blur that seemed in my mind to have occurred in a different lifetime.

I made some pretty crazy revelations like: twice the time had passed between my birth and now than had passed between the end of World War I and my birth; In only 6 or 7 years I would be paying for my children's university education; People I'd gone to school with and grown up with and hadn't seen in years were starting to die off not from car and motorcycle accidents but from terminal diseases and heart attacks, things associated with old age.

It got to me for a while. I was going to die someday and that day was not getting any further away. After I realized that this idea was driving me to the brink of insanity, I decided I needed to do something about it. I centered my attention on my health since it was the one thing that could prolong my demise the longest. I, of course, became vegan and I pushed my physical fitness to levels only comparable to those glorious years in high school (in some areas even beyond that). Most importantly, I convinced myself that living in the past and the future was a waste of time. I began to live in the present.

I've stolen 10 quotes about living in the present. They fall in no particular order, but all inspire me and I hope they will inspire you. In recent years, a little internet invention called Facebook has skewed our perceptions of the past by bringing it all back in a big rush right in our faces. It gives us little triggers that bring back the glory days and make us long for it all to be real again. I still love to use Facebook but I realize that you can't go back and just maybe those glory days were no less glorious than the day you're currently experiencing.

  • If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you haven't done much today. - author unknown
  • We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. I don't think it was, and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you're hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time. - Art Buchwald
  • When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. - Alexander Graham Bell
  • If you have one eye on yesterday, and one eye on tomorrow, you're going to be cockeyed today. - author unknown
  • Nothing is worth more than this day. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present. - Babatunde Olatunji
  • I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is. - Alan Watts
  • We are always getting ready to live but never living. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow. - Fulton Oursler
  • One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. - Dale Carnegie

The highlighted quotes are my favourites of the favourites...