Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Two Walks on Election Eve

Wednesday morning unfolded as expected: I dropped my son off at out of school care on my way to work and headed to the LRT to get to work. I walked the five minutes or so to Sunnyside Station oblivious to the white noise of election signs for mayor, councillor and school trustee that dotted the lawns in the run up to the municipal election in Calgary slated for October 9. When I arrived at the station, I spotted one of the candidates for councillor, Dean Brawn, mainstreeting on the opposite platform dressed in a Calgary Flames jacket, despite the controversial maneuvers the petulant corporate citizen has made during the campaign. The sartorial selection suggests a lack of subtlety or strategic insight on the part of Brawn and his campaign team.

Brawn, who has made a point of using campaign signs that bear hardly a coincidental resemblance to the livery of the bygone Progressive Conservative party, is running in my ward as a candidate intent on cost-cutting. He has gone after the incumbent, Druh Farrell, for her spending and he has made every orchestration to indicate he would cut spending and possibly taxes, despite his apparent interest in the Flames' ambitions to not have just a new arena, but the chance to indulge in a side business in real estate. In light of the history that Calgary-based real estate developers have had trying to influence municipal elections to pave the way for continued sprawl further and further out of the city's core, Brawn's bald affiliation with the Flames and those with aspirations of visiting a reopened corporate welfare trough. With mayoral candidate Bill Smith touted for his Progressive Conservative bona-fides, his reluctance to follow through on transit plans that are in place for the LRT Green Line and Southwest BRT raises questions about his interests in ensuring that the city continues to build the infrastructure that it has in the last 5-10 years and making the progress toward building a more sustainable, walkable and urbanist community that Calgary and other Western Canadian cites have strived to develop in the last decade.

It is undeniable that money has been spent during Naheed Nenshi's term in the mayor's office and money has been spent in Ward 7, where Druh Farrell is councillor. The money that has been spent has gone into infrastructure that will have a last impact on the life of the city and its citizens. The unspecified change that Smith, Brawn and other "cost-cutters" running for office have wrapped themselves in to promote themselves as champions of the taxpayer or the little guy is nothing more than a ploy to regress to an approach to city-running -- I deliberately avoid the terms "leadership," "government," and "management" -- that discards a long-term view or granular assessment of city life that ensures the city proceeds in a direction that lacks in the complexity and strategic insight to spend money wisely and with a comprehensive plan that impacts all of the aspects of the city's life.

To make a point about the distinctions and advantages of living in Calgary that is run with a comprehensive vision for what it could or ought to be let me contrast two neighbourhoods I have lived in. Ten years ago, I lived in Rocky Ridge with a view to the west that gave me a sunset but no connection to the rest of the city. If my wife and I wanted to go for a walk to a coffee shop, we had to walk for 55 minutes to find the closest. The only time we saw one of the few neighbours we knew was when we ran into him when he worked at the airport.  (We are not jet-setters who are passing through YYC anymore than two or three times a year.) The lot that housed a large billboard in 2008 touting the soon-to-come elementary school still has that sign and has yet to see the shadow of a shovel. These are the types of broken promises that are made when people are encouraged to buy into the sprawl of the suburbs but the city and the province does not have the resources to build infrastructure further and further out rather using the infrastructure in the core of the city as efficiently as possible.

For the last eight and a half years, however, I have had the good fortune of living in a neighbourhood where the walkability and convenience has put me in touch with neighbours with whom I have become acquainted with a fond of. I can walk my 5-year-old son to school at the start of the day on my way to work and at the end of the day I can walk him home. I also have enough time in my day to make a side-trip to the supermarket. He chattered away in wonder at how the snow melted as soon as it hit the ground rather than accumulated, stopped me to gaze up at a nest in a tree and for the two of us to share what unfolded throughout the day without inhibition. The walks the two of us share regularly are not merely an opportunity to chat, but one for him to enjoy the benefits of daily walking that is less available to everyone living in the outer suburbs. I would not have this opportunity if I was driving home, bouncing from station to station looking for a good song or a traffic report while my son stared out the window or gave his input on the listening options.

These incidental relationships and moments in communities where neighbours get to know one another and a father and son can have the conversations that teach and bond them together are the fabric of the community that Calgary can be. Dean Brawn and Bill Smith do not demonstrate a grasp of this when they talk about cutting transit and suggest they will open the coffers to a low-return contribution to developers and sports teams.  They seem more like power-brokers than community-builders and they are more motivated to assume office than necessarily do anything particularly constructive when they get the keys. Mayor Nenshi and councillors such as Druh Farrell, Gian-Carlo Carra and Evan Woolley are among those who have had a detailed, granular grasp of and passion for recognizing how cities, neighbourhoods, and streets work and bring an insight and passion for community-building to their roles that have made them valuable stewards of the city.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Victory Lap?

Sponsored by an ambulance service?!
With the Boston Qualifying time under my belt and my registration confirmed, I was still inclined to get out and run one more marathon in 2017.  After running four last year, the itch lingered and the office was clearing its throat for me to start burning through the vacation days I had piled up.

I had a strong interest in returning to Nashville to get another massive bit of bling and take a shot at winning my age group in a smaller, now-familiar race, but Portland beckoned as well. With Portland, there was also the opportunity to visit a city that I had heard so many positive things about.

With Boston 6 1/2 months away friends have been regularly asking what I was going to do to get ready for it and I openly admitted the possibility that the motivation may not be there since racing there might be the cherry on the cake. I have actually wondered how many more marathons I'd want to do after next April. I've thought about being a pacer in future races but have said more than a few times that it would be tempting to treat Boston as a victory lap and that there was just a remote chance of me going back regularly or annually after doing it in 2018.  I have not expressed the recognition, however, that training at the pace I have throughout 2017 was not going to be sustainable and that I would have to take some kind of break between now and the end of the year before bearing down for the new year.

That retreat had already begun in earnest since qualifying. I have not been running as much or eating as carefully as I had through the year to this point. In September, I made my mileage goal only on the very last day on the month.  So this morning, I lined up for marathon number ten with plans to maintain the pace I kept in August with a bit of help from being on a relatively flat course at sea level.  I started out well though I needed an early bathroom break (my fourth in all of the races I've run in the last 7-8 years) and kept a strong pace through the first third of the race.

The recent lack of hill training made its point to me around the 13K mark but it did not put too big a dent in me.  I stayed on target pace for the race up until the 30K mark and felt the legs go tight and felt an unfamiliar compression (it seemed) on my lower ribs. From that point on, I laboured and lost in range of 5-6 minutes over that last stretch of the race and finished with a 3:34. Not feeling the pressure to run faster, I focused on remaining comfortable and steady for the last 12K and still felt that I could get close to the qualifying time.  Being passed by the 3:30 pacer was demoralizing but I did what I could to keep pace with them.  However, according to my GPS, I somehow ran an extra 600 metres, which did not help.  The tightness I experienced is rather unusual as I'm more accustomed to having a flabby, weakened feeling set upon my legs when a race takes its toll on me. On top of the achy legs, is soreness in the arms from pumping through the way I did.

So the day winds down with a bit of clock watching due to a flight delay while the rose I received for completing the race dries. It was a fun race and I am abundantly amused that the race finisher T-shirts were sponsored by an ambulance service, a reminder that this is the original extreme sport.

Mentally, I did not have the focus I had in August, or the confidence that I had then either. I was quite possibly cocky, rather than confident and I was not telling myself to have fun and to succeed as I did in August.  Instead, my mind was a less-focused blankness and I did not assert myself in this race. I was rather withdrawn from my fellow racers, as was the case in May this year.  The question is whether the mental aspect is something that will come to be or if it is something that I can force myself into.

Still, managing my third best marathon on a day when my fitness was not at its peak is an assuring indication of what my body is capable of.  With a few nagging aches to look after and a light racing schedule for the rest of the year, it will be time to ease up a bit, rest my body and mind and start to ramp up the training for Boston as winter sets in and I prepare to make my next marathon a more meaningful and memorable one.