Saturday, September 24, 2011

The strategy is... there is no strategy

So, with the Twin Peaks 50 Mile Ultra two weeks away, it's time to take stock of where we are now.

What's nice is that I haven't been thinking too hard about the race, which is as it should be. After the AC100, I was a bit worn out emotionally, physically, and mentally, not only from the race, but from events in my personal life. It took about four weeks to become interested in running after that, and another few weeks to really start caring about mileage.

But as of today, I'm back in love with trail running and excited to think about what's to come. I have a few events left this year - after Twin Peaks, there's the Chimera 100 Mile Mountain Race, and one week after that, there's the Red Rock 50 Mile Run (still deciding on that one, but it sounds like such fun it's very hard to say no).

Beyond those races, my mind has been centered on what next year will hold. For 2011, my goal was to learn about 100 mile races, and how to run (hike, walk, crawl.... you get the picture) them. I did that by entering four of them, and yes, it taught me a lot.

For 2012, I'd like to explore some further distances, probably with the help of fastpacking, which holds a lot of appeal... we'll have to see. It will be easier to decide once a few things settle down, but that's the goal.

In the meantime, I've been running in the 55-60 mpw zone for the last two weeks, and while that ain't much to some runners, it's pretty good for me. At least, until I get that fat salary and only have to work 20-30 hours per week, or can afford that full-time nanny I've been hankering for.

So far, I'm feeling great - and I haven't been worrying about races. Not gonna. Won't do it.

At least, that's the strategy. I just want to enjoy running for a while.

Twin Peaks will be a fun one - beautiful mountains, and enough climb to make you feel like you're really earning your finish. Looking forward to getting my ass kicked out there, and actually following the right course all the way to completion this year - no Boy Scout assistance needed this year, thanks very much.

Should be a fun one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dogs: They're on to me

Not all dogs can be as happy as this li'l guy
No really, I mean they are ON to me... literally. Well, at least one dog in our neighborhood is.

How else would you explain the following?

Just a few days after my last post about fences that keep in yappy dogs, I had an encounter with one, except this guy didn't just yap. He growled, ran, and then bit.

His breed was of the Spuds Mckenzie fame; a bull terrier. He ran out of his owner's yard as I passed on the sidewalk in front of his house. The children who lived there were sitting out front having a yard sale, and I smiled at them as I ran by.

Then, I heard them start to yell: "No, Cody, NO!" followed by the unmistakable sound of a dog's growls, and nails on pavement...


I jumped forward, hesitated, then shot forward again - my hesitation came from the brief wondering if the dog was only chasing me because I was running (I have known dogs such as these), but I quickly decided that running was the better option.

As I ran, he jumped and bit me on the leg. I say "bit", but really, it was more of a nip - literally less than a 1-inch puncture, and enough force to generate some nice bruises that would flower the next day. It was very, very minor.

It was enough to shake me, however - as I jogged a few more feet after the children had called the dog off, the Chihuahua at the next house saw me coming and ran to the fence, yapping... and well, I nearly jumped out of my skin (in fact, for the remained of the run I was very jumpy at the sound of any bark).

After that, I wasn't sure what to do. Really, I wanted to just go home, and was worried if I went back to the house that the dog would run at me again. After thinking a second further however, I knew I had to go back and at least talk with the dog's owners - they needed to know what had happened, and I needed to hear from them what they would do to make sure it would not happen again.

So, that's what I did - some people may think that was not enough, but I just was not comfortable reporting the dog to Animal Services based on the minor level of the encounter - it just hadn't been that serious, and while the dog had apparently been excited enough to take a snap at me, it withdrew pretty quickly and had seemed entirely spurned on by my running... once I stopped, he was no longer interested. All in all, I did not think he presented enough of a threat to report.

The incident has, however, made me consider what to do if actually attacked by a dog - it's one of those situations where you think you know what to do, but really don't.

So, here's the scoop - what to do if you have a run-in with an aggressive dog (the article was published on Good Morning America, and has similar recommendations as those of dog trainers who have also published advice online).

What To Do If You Encounter a Seemingly Aggressive Dog:
  1. Stand still. If you keep approaching, the dog will interpret this as an attack
  2. Don't make eye contact. This is a challenge to the dog
  3. Don't smile. The dog thinks you are "baring your teeth" at him. This is an invitation to fight.
  4. Wait for the dog's owner to come and restrain the dog
  5. Respect the dog's wishes! If the dog is barking and growling, he is expressing his definite displeasure with your actions. Don't push the envelope. Most dogs make good on their warnings!
What To Do If You Are Attacked by a Dog:
  1. Don't move! You cannot outrun a dog, no matter how fast you are. Running only provokes an angry dog.
  2. Look away. Staring an aggressive dog in the eyes is a challenge.
  3. Use a soft, soothing tone of voice. Loud, angry-sounding words and screaming only spur on the dog.
  4. Keep your arms to your side, with your fingers curled in so the dog can't bite them.
  5. If he bites you, DO NOT PULL AWAY. This only spurs the dog on. Remain calm. Try to ram a stick, broom handle, etc down the dog's throat to make him gag and let you go. Don't hit the dog. Again, that just makes the situation worse.
  6. If you are on the ground, curl into a fetal position. Cover your head and neck. Lay perfectly still. Usually a still target is boring to the dog and they will retreat.

I hope this advice is helpful, but I'll admit the advice regarding "What to Do if You Are Attacked By a Dog" seems very hard to follow. Our natural instinct is to run, to fight back, and to yell; but this article (and other dog training articles online) tell us that those behaviors are not the best response.

Interesting stuff. I'll try my best to avoid any attacks in the future by slowing down if I hear a dog getting too aggressive, or not contained - usually I just run right by and hope for the best (as evidenced by my "Ode to the Fence" where I just HOPE that the fence will hold).

Now, I understand that hoping for the best isn't good enough - I've got to use my eyes and ears to make sure I don't get in the way of an aggressive dog. And yeah, it sucks that we have to worry about this, but it's better than getting "nipped" in the back of the leg... or worse!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ode to the Fence

I ran a really fun 8 miles tonight, but as usual it was made even more lively by all the yappy-snappy dogs that live in the neighborhood. 

You know the dogs I mean - the ones that sit immobile on the porch or in the doorway, then come tearing out into their yards as you go by, barking as though you've got a lamb chop the size of their neighbor's cat tied around your neck and they're dead set on having it - and you -  for their late-night snack.

There was one especially hair-raising instance of this tonight, and as I ran off, feeling the back of my neck tingling, I pondered the amount of faith we place in what seem like relatively innocuous structures: fences.

Then, I wrote a little ditty about it.

Ode to the Fence

Oh Mr. Tall Fence, please hold
When the fierce dog jumps, don't fold
Please hold.

Oh Mr. Tall Fence, please hold
Though he'll claw with his nails, be bold
and please hold.

He'll start his attack
With a launch from the back

And he'll charge for the rails
Leaving troughs with his nails

His teeth sharp and white
As I brace for the bite

I run even faster
And plead 'gainst disaster...

So Mr. Tall Fence, please hold -
Please hold.