The Day the World Changed

Forgive me.  This post isn’t fitness related at all, but it is something I needed to put down in words today.

It’s been 15 years since I watched live video of the second plane hitting the World Trade Centre (I’ve seen the footage replayed a million times since then, but that day I saw it live).  I had been there a year before with a class trip, and taken photos of a skyline that ceased to exist as we knew it on September 11, 2001.

It was my second day of classes in university, and I was on the phone with the guy who had sold me my first new computer, having issues yet again (oh, Windows ’98). The tech was walking me through troubleshooting, and suddenly went silent.

“Oh my god.” He said “The World Trade Centre just collapsed.”

I kind of mumbled an acknowledgment.   I thought he meant some sort of financial collapse.

“A plane hit it.”  He said.

My head snapped up.  That couldn’t be right.  There would be people there.  It was Tuesday morning.

I don’t remember what else was said or how the call ended, but I remember stumbling into the dorm’s common room, where the TV was already turned to CNN.  I got there in time to see the second tower go down, and we just watched as it was shown again and again.  The room was full of crying 18-and 19-year-old girls, glued to the screen even though we knew what we would keep seeing.  At some point our residence advisor came in and told us that classes were cancelled for the day, before sitting down with us.

Now it’s important to note that I am Canadian.  I am from Canada, and on September 11, 2001, I was attending a Canadian university.  That day, our world changed too.

New York City is about a 10 hour drive from here, maybe 12 from where I lived then.  When you grow up in a province the size of Ontario,  that’s awfully close.  There’s a border in between, sure, but geographically,  we’re damned-near neighbours.  That day, our safety bubble was burst.  The girls in my dorm murmured amongst themselves about what it all meant.  “World War III” was repeated over and over again, and we prayed it wouldn’t come to that.  Girls went to their rooms to call boyfriends and girlfriends, best friends, parents, anyone they could draw comfort from.  For most of us, it was our first time living away from home, and the world had just become a very terrifying place.

I won’t delve into the politics of the tragedy or the months that followed.  Over the past 15 years, millions have lost their lives as a result of the chain of events set in motion that day.  There are differing opinions on the matter – whether it was a government set-up, whether they retaliated against the “right” people (if retaliation was ever the right answer).  It doesn’t matter.  It was a terrible tragedy that led to further tragedies, and NONE of it ever should have happened.

The world I grew up in – the safe, mainly peaceful life I’d had until then – vanished that morning.  I grew up with the mentality that we in Canada were safe.  Naiive, I know, but the general idea was that the U.S. would keep us protected.  No one would attack them, and by extension, no one would attack us for fear of incurring their wrath – after all, we were friends.  (Like I said, it was a naiive way of thinking, but it was just sort of a general consensus).  Then they were attacked, and we were no longer safe.  Our open border all but slammed shut.  Travel as we knew it changed.  Wars began.  Boys I went to school with – now men – flew overseas.  Over the years, more and more of those boys came home via the Highway of Heroes, to be honoured at Canadian Forces Base Trenton before being sent home to be mourned by their families.

In April of last year, my partner and I took a trip back to New York City.  We went to see a Broadway show, but took the week to explore the city again.  There were a lot of changes – more than just the obvious, but much of the city was the same.  Then we took a walking tour of the site of the World Trade Centre, where a powerful memorial still stands.

It’s hard to breathe there somehow.  Maybe it’s a subconscious thought of the dust and smoke that would have filled the air for weeks after the tragedy.  Maybe it’s the ghosts of everyone who fell there.  There is a haunted feeling at the memorial – I suspect it is.  You can’t help but tear up when standing by the pools, the pain is palpable. The granite railings around the waterfalls are etched with the names of the victims, and they say that each stream of water represents a life lost.  It’s beautiful and terrible at the same time, but I would go back in a heartbeat to stand there again.

The fire department across the street, where many of the first responders originated, has its own memorial wall – a reminder of those who risked or gave their lives for the survivors.

 

If anything good came out of that tragedy, it was a show of the courage and kindness of regular people.  The firefighters and the soldiers, but also the civilians.  The people who opened their homes to stranded passengers, the survivors who risked their lives to help colleagues, friends, and total strangers escape the burning towers.  There were non-human heroes too – search and rescue dogs, therapy animals, even service animals who guided their owners to safety.  Tragedy brings out the best and worst in the world, and we certainly saw both.

I wish I had a different world to show my future children.  I wish I had a way to turn it back into what it was before September 11, 2001, because it was different then.  I’ve seen society progress so much in my lifetime, but I don’t know if it will ever recover from that day.

Long, Strange Trip

I missed my ride yesterday, so I needed minimum 15 miles today to make up for it.  I started by riding to work this morning, which took care of 3.5 miles – only 11.5 to go after work.  Ooh boy.

We have some beautiful bike routes in town, but they’re short, and I’ve seen a lot of them these past weeks, so I decided to ride across the causeway into the neighbouring county.  I discovered while I was out, however, that there is no bike path, and possibly no sidewalk, on the causeway.  This posed a challenge for me, and I finally had to admit to myself that I’m not confident enough in my cycling ability yet to tackle the causeway.  So, I did a couple of laps around the park, then headed home the long way.  I got my extra 11.5 miles in!   I may never be able to walk again, but I got my ride in – lol.

This year’s cygnets (the gray ones) – not much smaller than Mom and Dad now, they’ll be off on their own soon enough.  Such an incredible sight to see!

 

Best Laid Plans

Welp.  Camping did not go quite as I had planned.

By the time we got there Thursday night it was nearly 10pm.

On Friday, we did a short hike, then spent some time at the dog beach.

Our dog, Miley, is a coonhound/lab/husky/akbash mix (whose behaviour is almost 100% hound).  She has webbed feet like a lab, but is apparently terrified of water.  We’ve been trying to help her over her fear, and finally managed to get her in the water – all the way to her ankles.

Miley and my partner going for a “swim”

I was a little more enthusiastic about the water, and decided to do my distance swim.  I set out for deeper water, and walked, and walked… at nearly 1/3 of the way across the lake, the water wasn’t yet waist-deep and the weeds were getting bad.  Finally I dropped and swam back towards shore until I physically couldn’t  (as in, “ran aground”).  I did learn that my swimming is desperately rusty, and i have decided to start swimming at the local fitness centre.  My partner and I will be getting YMCA memberships next month so that we can use the pool, track, etc. all year.

On our hike back from the beach, we had an incredible experience that I can only describe as a “gift“. (My basic acount won’t let me post videos, so I’ve uploaded it to YouTube and included a link)

It’s hard to tell from the video, but the fawn’s white spots were so clear they looked as though they were painted on.  I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to adjust the settings on my camera – turned out I had plenty of time.  It was an amazing encounter, and we were so lucky to share in that moment.  After I stopped filming, we thanked the deer and then walked away as gently as possible.   

 We had a campfire Friday night, then first thing Saturday morning I went for my trail run.  The trail had chosen was within the park, but a 25 minute drive from our campsite.  I got to the head of the trail, and read the sign. “Caution: This is a back country trail… NEVER hike alone.”  Ohhh crap.  Back I drove to the main part of the park, found another trail, and set out.  I reached the end of the trail just as my five minute warm up ended.  Okay.  Short trail.  I ran part of the way back, then found another short but busy trail.  So I walked.  My partner and I went for another hike later that day.   Well,  better walking than nothing.  Another beautiful campfire Saturday night and we settled in for the night to read.  

When we woke up Sunday morning, it was raining.  No… maybe that’s not the word for it.  Remember our dog and her feelings towards water? In all fairness, our site was ankle deep.

Big brave hound dog

It was a rough trip home, all of us wet and dirty from packing up in that weather, but we made it!

4 miles in this morning.  15 intervals of 1 minute running,  one minute walking, and then another couple of miles walking.   Even before 9am it was hot today, but I made it.  I even skipped to week 3 of my running plan after taking last week off, so that I could still be on time with my 10k training for my race next month.

A Good Place to (Re)Start

I have struggled with my weight all my life.

I was a big kid, and badly bullied.  I ate my lunches sitting against the wall of the school building, or begged the teacher to let me help with classroom chores.  I took more sick days than most kids – partly because I was avoiding school, and partly because I was often sick from the stress.  My pets and my parents were my best friends, with few others my age breaking through the circle.  Those I let through often turned on me, throwing my weight back in my face at the first sign of a problem.  I became angry and cynical, and began experiencing blind rages when the bullying got to be too much.  In elementary school, a couple of fights actually even resulted in serious injuries of other children, because I would black out and not realize I was hurting them (one day I will get into my struggles with mental health issues – but it’s a very long story).  I developed asthma at the age of 12, which made physical activity more difficult, and my clumsiness often led to injuries when I did participate in sports.  At some point during my childhood, I developed Binge Eating Disorder, and would buy food and hide it from my parents, stuffing myself full of junk food in secret.

The bullying continued through my teenage years, although less overtly, with my first few relationships – with boys – being “secrets”.  All three of my first boyfriends insisted that no-one know about our relationships – because others wouldn’t understand.  One of those boys at that time had been my best friend for five years before that – but had also wanted to keep our friendship secret as well, lest anyone think we were more than friends.  And yes, I let my friends treat me that way.  I DID let them.  I don’t now.  But maybe that’s why, even now, I don’t have many friends.  The first relationship that I had that wasn’t a secret lasted three years, but when it ended, one of the reasons he gave for dumping me (on the night of our high school graduation, no less) was that I hadn’t even tried to lose weight (he was wrong, I had tried many times over the three years, but never been successful – just like had happened many times over the previous years, and just like has happened many times since then).

I gained weight steadily after high school, and even after meeting my partner in 2004.  My father had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at the age of 42, when I was 18.  At the time, the doctors told me that I would likely develop it as well by his age if I wasn’t careful.  I figured I had lots of time.  I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome at age 22, which causes weight gain and insulin resistance.  I should have take that opportunity to really try to change, but I think somewhere in my head I used it as a reason why it really wasn’t my fault – and besides, my doctors told me it could lead to diabetes in the future, probably by age 40, according to this set.  My highest weight was 282 lbs, right around the time of my diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes – only a year after my P.C.O.S. diagnosis.  I managed to avoid having to take insulin until a little over two years ago, but have had to take daily injections since then.  I wish I could say that my diagnosis 10 years ago or having to start on insulin was the catalyst I needed to start taking care of myself, but it wasn’t.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried at all, or that I’m not aware of how important it is to take care of myself – only that I haven’t stuck with anything long enough.

I have attempted Weight Watchers a number of times over the years – the first time being in high school – and it worked a little bit the first two times, but not after that.  Don’t get me wrong – the formula works – eat better, get active, lose weight – but the format doesn’t work for me.  I find the meetings frustrating, and the online program isn’t enough accountability – and the cost can be prohibitive at times, particularly since my partner and I attend together when we do go.

The binge eating disorder has never gone away.  To be honest, I don’t know if it ever really will.  I still catch myself sometimes hoarding food, as if somehow there won’t be enough later.  The addiction to junk food – primarily sugar for me – might be manageable if I could somehow spread the consumption over time, but I don’t.  My process goes something like this: “I really want chocolate.  I shouldn’t, but I’m going to go to the store and get some.  I’ll get something that’s individually wrapped so that I can eat one or two and save the rest for later.”  Then I get to the store, and it’s “I can’t decide between chocolate and candy.  I have to pick one.  I cannot get both.  Eh, maybe I can – I’m not going to eat it all at once.”  So I buy both, get it home, and hide it, and then by bedtime I’ve somehow eaten it all.

In 2011, I made a decision to at least become more active, and I took up running.  I participated in the Toronto leg of Ben Davis’ “Do Life” tour (not that you’ll ever read this, but Ben, you have no idea what you did for my life, and I can’t thank you enough).  My partner and I ran the Sandbanks Fall Getaway Fun Run that fall (5k), and then attempted the Fat Ass Trail Run (10k) at Batawa Ski Hill in November, and it kicked our butts.  We finished, but it took us over 2 hours, and we walked almost all of it.  After that, we had trouble getting back into running, discouraged by our failure.  In December, we both slowly began to return to the gym, and probably would have continued, had a run of bad luck not intervened.  My partner began to feel ill on Christmas Day, and by that night, was barely able to stand.  The illness rapidly developed into pneumonia, which meant a terrible start to 2012.  Two weeks later, I developed it myself, and was off work for a week, sick as a dog.  After recovering, I packed my bags one evening and put them in the car to take to the gym the next morning.  As luck would have it, I tripped that night, rolled my ankle, and fractured the cuboid bone in my foot, along with tearing the syndesmotic ligament in my lower leg.  I was in a walking cast for 8 weeks, unable to run, or even to drive.  It took longer than 8 weeks to fully recover, but by August, I was starting to do a little running again.  In late 2012 and throughout 2013, I did a little more running, but nothing serious.  I found it difficult to get back into it, but by 2014 I was finally getting back into the swing of things.  I even ran a 5k – the Pride And Remembrance Run at World Pride in Toronto.  Then summer hit, and brought with it a series of family tragedies.  I shouldn’t have, but I let them derail me.  In the winter, I finally decided enough was enough, and joined Nerd Fitness – a program that presents healthy eating and exercise in a RPG format, allowing the user to create a character that they level up as they improve their health.  The Facebook groups for members have been incredibly supportive and valuable, and they have helped immensely with everything.

2015 brought with it a new determination.  The losses from 2014 helped to motivate me to improve my health, and I began registering for races, which has always been wonderful motivation for me as well.  I ran the Perth Kilt Run (8k) in June, then immediately quit smoking (believe it or not, running and smoking do not mix well).  A week later, I ran the 5k Pride And Remembrance Run in Toronto again, then decided to go bigger, and registered for the 10k Oasis Zoo Run at the Toronto Zoo in September.  I ran it, finishing in an hour and 34 minutes, and ran another 10k a month later, this time a virtual race for Zombies! Run.  Admitting I needed a little outside inspiration, I registered to be matched with a buddy through a group called I Run 4 Michael, which pairs a runner with someone who cannot run themselves – for whatever reason – and was put on a waiting list.  I also joined a local dragon boat team, and moved to the competitive race team rapidly.  I loved being out on the water, and the paddling was therapeutic.

In April of this year, I finally got my match – an amazing little boy with Koolen deVries Syndrome, which is a rare deletion on the 17th chromosome with causes a number of health issues and developmental delays.  He is a beautiful, determined soul who I am happy to dedicate all of my miles to.  The day after I was matched with him, I ran the Butterfly Run, a 5k run with proceeds going to the pediatric bereavement program at our local hospital, to help parents who have lost a pregnancy or a child.  I followed that with the Kilt Run again, then the Pride and Remembrance Run for the third year in a row.  I am again registered for the Oasis Zoo Run 10k in September, and am once again going to attempt the Fat Ass Trail Run in November – this time, I will be far better prepared.  I haven’t been able to do dragon boating this year as I have had some complications with diabetic neuropathy in my hands, but have gotten back to cycling after a 10 year hiatus, and am loving the freedom that provides.

I have huge goals now for running, cycling, and swimming (do I hear an Ironman in my future…?) and am determined to reach them.

My doctors have told me that there is a possibility that I may never lose a whole lot of weight – insulin makes weight loss very difficult – but that doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy and active, and that is my exact plan.

This blog will be about my running, swimming, cycling and nutrition, and my journey through Nerd Fitness, as well as “leveling up my life” (a phrase borrowed from Nerd Fitness’ creator Steve Kamb – and the title of his book) in general – family, career, etc.

Welcome, and enjoy.