Monday, March 28, 2016

Another AMA

Here we go, another exciting AMA feature! Thanks very much to my questioners.

What's your next race(s)?
If you could do any race in the world what would you do? Assume funds aren't an issue and you will be perfectly trained on the start line.
I'm going to do these together. I'm not currently signed up for a next race. I said I will sign up for the 10 K run at the Calgary Marathon so I can join a buddy at the start line. She's going to be doing the marathon, but I'm not up for that. I've got a September or October marathon penciled in, but haven't signed up yet.

I don't need to be signed up for a race to motivate me to train or even just be active. In fact, signing up almost fills me with dread because now I have a deadline. I fear an injury, or bad weather. I know that there are good training days, and there are tough ones, and there are bad ones, and if I don't have a race, that's what they are, is training days. But when I've got a race coming up, the bad ones start preying on my mind.

The more I look back on it the more I marvel at completing IMC in 2010. I not only had to sign up a year in advance, I had to travel to Penticton to do so. It's a beautiful part of the world, and we enjoyed the trip, but I could hear the clock ticking. It's a good thing I didn't work most of 2009 and could plan my life around workouts and recovery. I am quite certain that I couldn't train for another Ironman while working even part time, and I'm not especially certain I could do it again even if I wasn't working.

I think it's a fire and ice thing for the any race. Every triathlete in their secret heart of hearts wants to do Kona. They all want to go to the Big Dance at least once, and not only walk on Dig Me beach, but fit in. At least most people have heard of it. Mention one of the other Ironman races and it's huh? 

But then there is there is the Norseman Ironman. Watch the video. That one takes serious stones. You wear the black finisher's shirt in the tri crowd, and you will get noticed. This is one brutal race for both athlete and sherpa(s). I would LOVE to be fit enough and tough enough to tackle that. 
What did you think of the federal budget?
Good question! I think of budgets as sort of a mythical thing, with no real connection to reality. Take the snow and ice control budget for the city. Nobody really knows how much it will snow, or how much it will cost to keep the roads drivable in winter. There are estimates based on previous years, and long term forecasts, but really they're a guess. But the problem comes is that people start thinking its a performance measure. Exceed the budget and you're a bad manager, come in under budget and you're a good one. BAH! 

Even on a household level nobody really knows. Income is uncertain, especially lately in Calgary. One never knows when a house or car repair will pop up. Even allowing some space in the budget for that, it could easily be not enough. 

So now imagine trying to build a budget for the entire country. I wouldn't even know how to begin. Trudeau said his government would run deficeits and now they are doing what they said they'd do. People are surprised, why? Oh, the amount is bigger than you expected? And you're surprised, why? It's such a big number? So go do the calculations as a percent of GDP and get back to me. Serious economists are not worried about it. By definition the Calgary Sun does not print the opinions of serious economists.

Yes, I know that several voracious readers of my blog are accounting professionals. I know what I've said fills them with inchoate horror and dread. I am an accounting heretic! I say it loud and proud! 
What's currently your biggest challenge in life?
Working on my books. Some days the words come and that's good. Some days the editing tweak is going well, and that's good too. Other days I look at the screen and I've got nothing. That's not so good. I'd hoped to get lots more writing done this weekend, but that didn't happen for whatever reason.

A different sort of challenge is to build consistency in running. Consistency has always been hard, along with the slow build. I'll be doing well and then I'll push too hard and have to back off and start over. Or an attack of life will come along and I can't get out to run when I'd like to. This afternoon as I write this, for example is a beautiful day for a run. The problem is I ran yesterday, and I'm not big on running 2 days in a row. Tomorrow isn't looking so good, but I'll deal with that when I get there. 

Then there are the work challenges. The oil and gas industry is particularly difficult right now. I'm in a fortunate position where my skills and corporate needs coincide. Many others are not so fortunate. I've been there and know how it feels. It's going to be a challenge to find the next gig as I try to transition gracefully to full time semi-retirement. 
What's your next travelling holiday?
We have a short vacation in April  to see the spring flowers. We booked before we fully realized what the seasons are doing. We've already had several months of spring weather here, and the flowers are starting to come up. But the flowers we visit will be up and blooming. We also hope to visit a cousin, and some buddies that live near there. We are beginning to flange up a retirement trip to Australia and New Zealand.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Ah yes, but what time of year? The perfect place one season might be the last place on earth to be another time. The climate in Calgary is nearly perfect for me. I love the sunshine, with days that vary between WTF cold and pretty darn hot, sometimes even within the same day. Even when it's warm or cold, it's a dry heat or cold.

Then again, Calgary itself is turning into an all-devouring big city. The ring of suburbs (where I live, technically speaking) is a monstrosity. Drive into town and the outside ring of houses (I don't say homes) looks a little like a ring of fortress walls. Our favourite fish and chip place is deep in the souless heart of Bridalwood, or Evergreen, or maybe it's Bridalgreen. I don't know. Remember those old Flintstone cartoons as they are driving along, and you see the same scenery going by on a short loop? That's what it's like driving there. Ugly homes, all the same.

And that word, driving. It pretty well sums up Calgary. For those who can't, or won't drive, living here must be a close approximation of hell unless you are fortunate in where you live and work. The neighbouring communities aren't much better. Okotoks used to be a nice little town, now it's a bedroom suburb. Same with Cochrane. Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Millarville all have their little subdivisions springing up. Mostly these are big ugly McMansions. High River is still a nice little town, mostly. There a few suburb things, but they're taking one out, the whole thing, because they realized they can't protect it from flooding. There's a river running through town, and there's reason for the name.

The thing that threw me about visiting Nova Scotia is when it rains (and it does rain) it was a warm rain. I couldn't get over it. I was out for one run, shorts and tech shirt, soaked to the butt, and had a great run. I enjoyed it. In Calgary if it's raining, it's cold out, and unless you've dressed very carefully, you're going to be cold. There's lots of niceness in Nova Scotia, but then, we haven't been there in the winter. It might be fun to go in the winter, and see what the beaches are like then. Vancouver and Fraser Valley are crazy stupid expensive, and with a mostly crappy climate for me. Pity so many of my relatives live there. 

I'm sure there are lots of nice places to live, even if only for a few weeks or months of the year, but that's not how it works for me. I've turned into a home body. We've been in this same house since 1984, slowly accumulating stuff. By moving somewhere, all that stuff would get rearranged. I'd never find anything again, though I have to admit that's sometimes a problem now. 
If you could splurge on any new piece of triathlon gear what would it be and why?
This is actually a surprisingly tough question. For what I'm doing now I've got all the gear I need. Probably more than I need, and I just ordered more yesterday, and more is taking the slow route to here. Some of you are thinking I'd say a top of the line tri bike, and surprise! No. Because then I'd be a poser. I'd never be able to use such a bike to it's full potential, and it would be an unhappy bike. Even my current bike doesn't get ridden as much as she would like. So maybe a mid-range tri-bike, custom fitted to me.

Anything less in the way of gear isn't really a splurge. The Garmin 920XT is $660 plus tax at MEC. If I was really SERIOUS, VERY VERY SERIOUSLY SERIOUS about training, I'd have probably bought one, or the earlier model when my last watch died. As it is, the phone and current Garmin (that I won!) tell me more than I need to know about my training. I suppose if I were doing a lot of swimming in open water, I'd "need" the Garmin.

In fact, like the guy with two watches that doesn't know what time it is anymore, I can now see too much information. My phone thinks yesterday's (as I write this) run was 11.09 K in 1:21:32, and the Garmin data says 10.87 K in 1:21:56.   
Have you any interest in running an ultra?
No. Not at all. 42.2 K is more than enough to run at any one time. In lots of ways I think the ultras are even tougher than Ironman.
How do you ignore bandaids and whoknowswhatelse in the pool? 
There are several answers to this. One is that Talisman is a really clean pool. I can't remember the last time I saw a band-aid there. Now, there is occasionally stuff on the bottom of the pool. The other day I picked a key off the bottom and one of those S hooks used for the lane markers. I was wondering what the story was for the person that lost the key. It's good luck to pick something off the pool bottom.

I think you either trust that the pool staff are following the various regulations about testing and pool chemicals or you don't. But I know that if I were designing a swimming pool, it wouldn't be possible to get from the locker room to the pool without being totally immersed in a foamy cleansing pool. Towels and dry stuff get passed through an opening. It could designed to accomodate various disabilities.

 Another is that I periodically swim in open water. Anything at all could be in that water. I remember a post race photo where one of my blog buddies was holding up her swim suit afterward. You could see everywhere the algae had accumulated. She threw the suit out.

Lastly is my work experience. I worked in a waste water treatment plant for a bunch of years. Even with shift work amnesia I remember what comes into the plant. Everything. Lets just say that and leave it there. One of my favourite pranks to do to people taking a tour happened in the secondary control room. This (at the time) was the final stage of treatment, with the water going into the Bow River. Of course it's sampled for lab tests. The samplers are a few feet away from a drinking water fountain. The water there always had a flat warmish taste just because the supply pipe was really long and the flow was low. AFTER all the people had had a drink I told them the fountain was hooked up the same line as the samplers, and that's why it tasted a bit off. After one girl threw up on the spot, I was a bit more careful who I told that to. And really, the water going into the river was crystal clear. The lab people said it was better quality water than what many people in the world thought was drinking water. 

When are you going to publish this book, or books you keep talking about? Why are you writing them anyways?
Publish. Good question. Sort of implies I end up with something an editor will publish, even if that editor is me. Part of the problem is that this isn't genre fiction. There are no easy handles on it to put it into a category, and publishers and book sellers need to put it in a category. And Lord knows, it isn't dramatic literary fiction that could be a contender for the Giller, or the Man Booker, or anything else, at least not yet.

Imagine going to a movie. The director has made all the choices for you, what the characters look, sound, and act like. You see the sets, scenery, and background. You get a soundtrack. You might get a face-full of digital effects. You need only sit there like a lump and take it all in.

Now imagine reading a book. You have to work harder, but the rewards are greater. Everything the director would show you, you build in your head. It's a much more satisfying experience and why the book is always better than the movie. Well, almost.

Now one step further along, writing the book. My characters are pretty darn good to me, only getting off the reservation sometimes, but it's usually good for a scene or two. They are good sports about trying out the scene different ways. It's fun for me, since I can see the whole thing, to describe it in a series of words that is all the reader sees. 

I can get buried in my books (there are about 4 novels worth so far, and things keep expanding) far more easily than I can get buried in almost anyone else's books.

While it wasn't my Granny that asked this time, she's been asking for the better part of 20 years.
When are you and Linda coming back to NS?
That one I don't know. In one sense we've never left. One of my favourite relaxation techniques is to picture myself on Hirtle's Beach.Ahhhhhh.


  1. Enjoyed reading this, Keith. You're right about the pool of course. Been meaning to check out Centennial Pool up the road from my office so will try to do it soon.

    Hope the uncertainty re work is resolved soon so you can (if necessary) move on to planning the next adventure.

    Look forward to catching up in person in a couple of months! Finally registered for the race yesterday.


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