042515 WWF CN Tower Climb, Toronto, ON

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I’ve never been accused of being a health nut – quite the contrary – but one thing I definitely am is ‘compulsive’.  Oh sure, I can avoid, procrastinate, and put off things like a champion, but when I dive into something I dive hard and then I dive again.

Which I suppose is a big reason why a healthy aging chap like me started noticing a steadily growing girth about his abdomen (and everywhere else).  Undeterred, I obsessively dove into another jar of peanut butter and another case of beer and kept on diving until one day I saw a picture of myself and was shocked to find that I didn’t look like those Olympians I see plunging off of the diving towers, despite all my diving practise.

The first stroke of self-awareness of my personal oversizing was when I was in my mid-twenties, and luckily a bout of dengue fever that left me sweltering in the Thai heat utterly unable to eat for a full six days gave me a leg up – I lost about twenty-five pounds.  Then in my late thirties I started filling out again and I decided to ride my bicycle across Newfoundland and then across Scandinavia and then across Newfoundland again and once again the fat me was beaten into submission just in the nick of time.

And then I started climbing the CN Tower.  Okay, that’s a bit dramatic; I decided to take part in the WWF CN Tower climb, a lifelong dream of mine (the tower climbing, not the WWF part, but I’m happy to help the teddy bears when I can).  My first climb was in 2007, when I made it up the tallest metal staircase on Earth (1,776 steps) in just under twenty-six minutes (25:56).  After diving into a whole lot of cheeseburgers (and beers and peanut butter sandwiches) I put on quite a few pounds before my next attempt five years later, when it took me more than a half-hour to reach the top rung (30:47 to be precise), sweating and heaving the whole way.

And then a year or two later something happened.  I dove and dove and dove, mostly into chocolate, fast food, pizza, and the wonderful cooking of m’lady (hello, cheeseburger pie!) and then one day I happened to find myself on a scale.  And that scale read 248 pounds.

I decided to avoid scales.

But a month or so later I went out for a glide along the canal and I realized that the act of lacing up my skates was a significantly bigger workout than the skating itself, so rotund ‘twere I.  Seriously, I’m not kidding; my belly had grown to such a size that the struggle to work around it had become my biggest daily chore.  And then I did some math.

248lbs rounds up mathematically to 250.  If you have to round up 250 it rounds to an even(er) 300.  Of course if you round up 300 you’ll arrive at 500, and finally: if you have to round to the nearest thousand, well, 500 rounds up.  So I was left with the following facts: 1) my entire body was getting very, very round, and 2) mathematically, my roundness rounded up to a half-ton: a very round 1,000lbs.

Yes friends, your little amateur mathematician (when completely rounded) weighed a thousand pounds.

So I dove into diet and exercise, hard.  I borrowed a barely-used exercise bike (which are extremely easy to come by) and started eating lots and lots of salad.  Sure I binged (which in obsessive-land meant going full days without eating and/or doubling up my daily exercise routine) and man, those pounds started diving right off of my body.  Can you believe I got down as low as 183 pounds?  It was crazy, and only a vagal response that sent me away from a festival in Calabogie strapped to an ambulance gurney convinced me to start taking it easy.

But before that happened I had another CN Tower climb to do.  And for this one I trained hard.  In addition to my morning cycling I ran up the twenty-three flights of Carleton University’s Dunton Tower several times a day and when the April 25th, 2015* climb arrived I was ready.  I even had a strategy.  

I took the first twenty flights two stairs at a time – a feat that was made very easy by the mere fact that I was climbing with at least twenty or thirty less pounds hanging off of my body – then I went down to one at a time.  Then when I hit the halfway point I started two at a time again, first one flight on and one flight off, then two flights on and two flights off, then three, until I ultimately climbed the final ten flights in double-step.

(During this process I found myself behind some lolligagging teenaged girls who slowed me down considerably.  It was a dozen or more floors before I managed to duck past them; I can’t imagine why I didn’t just say “excuse me,” and rush immediately past them…)

And get this: I made it to the top of the freakin’ CN Tower in seventeen minutes and twenty-two seconds!  I had almost halved my previous climb-time, and once I caught my breath I felt pretty darn amazing.  It was like playing a great solo on the guitar; something that takes a lot of time, repetition, discipline, (compulsion), and personal struggle, and then one day you look down at your fingers (or your belly) and you really, truly can’t believe what you see.

And man, it felt good.

(Then somehow I started letting myself go again until one February morning I dared to step on the scale.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was almost up to 220 again but I was, and I was.  And I was pretty disappointed in myself too.  So the next morning I got back on that exercise bike and got back into the diet groove, but no more diving.  Just twenty-two minutes every morning and a handful of pushups – no more – and no crazy food freakiness.  I still tend to shun French fries in favour of salad but not always, and while I eat way less than I used to I don’t binge anymore in either direction.  And I’m maintaining a respectable 195.  Sure, I’d love to get back down to 183, but I just like beer way too much.)

I almost climbed the tower again recently but the WWF climb doesn’t always fit into my schedule.  The next time it does you’ll find me clambering for sponsorship donations again…no matter what my weight class is I just love the CN Tower climb. 

*As an added bonus, m’lady was in Toronto for work during this climb and was staying at a hotel basically next door to the CN Tower; the massive concrete base was just outside our window.  But the best part was that she had taken our car with her, which allowed me to arrive in Toronto via train.  Sure, travelling by train is always great, but even better: the train arrives in Toronto at Union Station which is directly beneath the CN Tower.  I was giddy.

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