Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Guest Post: Stewart Dutfield's Q1 Somewhat Running-related Diary

19 January. Six days ago, the "Recover from the Holidays 50K" started smoothly until, after a mere half hour, my right calf unaccountably began to tighten. It got slowly worse until, after a particularly uncomfortable downhill, I decided to go home early. Some deep tissue massage found the symptom but not the cause, and despite some remaining discomfort I was able to slowly run the hilly roads above Woodstock. Whether this will go away of its own accord, as such things sometimes do, is a cause of worry.
The Devil's Path of the High Catskills
Indian Head, Jimmy Dolan Notch, and southern tip of Twin

27 January. What to make of the news that the British government is making preparations, but has no plans, for martial law in the event of Brexit? A combination, perhaps, of Baden-Powell stiff upper lip with a flaccid "something will turn up". Meanwhile, life turns upside down as the British Broadcasting Corporation announces a move to Europe, while the so-called "European Research Group" wants to leave Europe as disruptively as it can: what will they call themselves then? Will Hutton warned, in 1995, of what could now be their manifesto:
  • Perpetual austerity: "Swinging cuts in the welfare state could bring lower taxation."
  • Low wages and job insecurity...though without immigrants, of course: "All inhibitions to the functioning of a free labour market could be removed..." 
  • Take back control by abandoning controls: "There will be another round of business deregulation." 
  • Martial law would be even better: "Any reaction to these measures could be repressed by intensified policing and an increase in the prison population."
  • Toodle pip, Open Society: "The vestigial elements of public power lying outside the control of the state or the market could be removed."
  • What has become the means to achieve everything else: "The country could opt out of all European institutions in order to better preserve the free market utopia."
30 January. Yesterday a New Statesman writer attempted to understand the Conservative Party's attitude to Brexit; they agree on five priorities, but disagree on their relative importance. Only two of the five, regulatory autonomy and an independent trade policy, are reasons to leave the EU; the remainder are simply containing the damage. So why does a broad church of Brexit voters, from Rochford to Rotherham, want to leave? A desire to poke the establishment in the eye does not explain the UK government's "red line" on free movement of people, which appears to be the cause of intractable difficulty regarding Ireland. A Guardian piece today leaves me considering a very reason for all of this: dislike of immigration, sometimes beneath a more genteel veneer of doing something about "those people".

4 February. In Albany's South End this morning, I was asked what I was carrying. 
"Don't you need snow for those?"
"There's more snow where I started out."
"Do they go fast?"
"No, I'm really slow on them."
"I guess if you were going fast on those things you'd whup your ass."

14 February. New Scientist reports a study on the health impact of post-Brexit increases in the price of fruit and vegetables: approximately 6,000 additional deaths by 2030, and twice that with no deal. A Kantian moralist in me discounts the numbers; those in the much-bruited 52% in favour of Brexit will simply experience the consequence of what they voted for, so we should lament only 48% of those fatalities. 

16 February. The Economist contrasts Shropshire's enthusiasm for Brexit with the risk of damage to its "traditional rural economy". Meanwhile, I have been listening to settings of A Shropshire Lad: poems much read in the trenches of World War I. A century later, it seems, nostalgia remains for a rural England that may never quite have existed and which one will not see in future. Over versions of "Is my team ploughing" by Ivor Gurney and Ralph Vaughan Williams I prefer George Butterworth's, if only because he retains the verses about football playing along the river shore. 

17 February. 45 years ago, the Albany Winter Marathon was one of very few events in the depths of a New York winter. It offered a last chance to qualify for Boston a couple of months later, but nowadays a "BQ" time must be in the books by the previous autumn. Having met the qualifying time for 2020, I may be one of the last; participation has dwindled and the Winter Marathon may be no more. Perhaps a hard-bitten few will run the course in future years, clock or no clock.

23 February. Though my right calf had not tightened in the marathon, the ankle on my other leg hobbled me for the next two days. Simply resting had little effect, so when I took my son and a friend to ski at Gore Mountain I gently cross country skied and snowshoed to see what would happen. Since nothing got worse, I resolved to continue being active and resorted to what runners typically do when things aren't working: buy new shoes.

2 March. After seven hilly Woodstock miles in the new shoes, my ankle stopped hurting. It felt better for the next 20 miles and the rest of the day. As muscles tightened after a long climb and steep descent, perhaps some imbalance in the ankle temporarily resolved itself.  

10 March. The Albany Running Exchange represents a buoyant younger wave of running in our area. At their "Tour of Guilderland" group run no-one appeared to be within 20 years of my age. It quickly emerged that I was also the slowest, though by running almost at full tilt I wheezed my part of a delightful conversation with someone out for an easy jog. After a detour through untracked inches-deep snow along the rail trail, I arrived exhausted at the organizers' house just in time for a gulp of prosecco and the last of breakfast. 

In the distance, taking the Helderberg to Hudson Rail Trail
photo: Josh Merlis

13 March
. In a 2005 book, Jean Lipman-Blumen commends us to leaders who undermine our illusions. She suggests that, predisposed to feeling superior to outsiders or to those who disagree with us, we are susceptible to leaders who exhibit behaviours such as:
"Misleading... through deliberate untruths and misdiagnoses"
"Maliciously setting constituents against one another"
"Identifying scapegoats and inciting others to castigate them"
"Structuring the costs of overthrowing them as a trigger for the downfall of the system they lead"
These may not be shortcomings of Theresa May. Her twin illusions, of abolishing freedom of movement and of some ill-defined national autonomy, simply could not be reconciled with the Good Friday agreement: a treaty with other countries that has established peace in Northern Ireland for 20 years. The Prime Minister has failed by evading this "valuable inconvenience", though had she confronted it the country may yet have proven unready to listen. Pro-Brexit UK has had the leadership it deserves. 

21 March. Bicycling to work for the first time this year, I dismounted for a couple of patches of ice on the rail trail and on the roads in town avoided as best I could the accumulated grit, glass and potholes of a hard winter. Railway sidings beside the future course of the South End Connector trail held long trains of black fuel tankers: pipelines on wheels for transhipment onto Hudson River barges. Suspecting false representation on those labelled "Renewable Products Marketing Group", I deferred my indignation to discover that the trains carry light Bakken crude from North Dakota, tar sands oil from Canada, and ethanol from the midwest. Ethanol entails many problems when used as a fuel, but perhaps this particular labeling was accurate as far as it went; no-one had painted the tankers green with pictures of happy butterflies.

The HAT run trail, above the mouth of the Susquehanna River

Van Der Zee House, built by the grandson of Storm Brant who was born at sea in 1636