Posted in Dog Life, Fall Training, road running, Running

The Girls of Summer are Preparing for Winter

My favorite thing that drives me wild
Is when a city girl walks a country mile
For a boy she loves
God bless the child inside the girls of summer

Girls of Summer by Aerosmith

Well, this city girl did waaaaay more than walk a country mile, and it sure the hell ain’t summer anymore in Fairbanks, Alaska. Sunday morning, Java and I dropped down from our hillside home to Ester Gas only to be blasted by frickin’ cold as we started our run to Geist Road. Unfortunately, I was already grouchy and still tired from my race in Canada the weekend before. Java had also chewed one of my shoelaces to protest my decision to sleep in an hour. That didn’t do much to improve my mood either.

The late start to our morning run also put Java in rare form. With breakfast being delayed by hours, she suddenly lost her ability to hear commands. Given that we were running on the bike path, I had her leashed. That didn’t keep her from trying to pull me off the path into the woods or across the highway to chase whatever it was she smelled. When she didn’t get her way she decided to make frequent stops to sniff EVERYTHING. This irritated me since I was freezing! I knew I should have worn a coat.

Then there was the miscalculation.

Yeah, see I just intended on running 8 miles, maybe 9. I also intended to run to Geist Road. Little did I know that Geist Road is 5.12 miles away from Ester Gas. So yeah, I could have turned around at mile 4, which is at Sheep Creek Ext. Or 4.5 which is in sight of Geist Road. But once you’re invested in a goal, it seems such a shame to stop a measly 0.6 miles away.

And so, I turned around in a high wind zone where Java really, really wanted to stop every few feet to sniff grass, climbed uphill over a mile before I could descend into Ester and make my way back to Ester Gas. As soon as we hit the 10 mile mark I stopped and walked the rest of the way. I had surpassed my original goal and after having several conflicts with Java needed to take my own attitude down a notch, so she and I could enjoy the rest of the day.

So after piling on many “treats of gratitude” in her little green plastic bowl, she and I went to Gold Hill Express where they give dogs bacon instead of biscuits. I picked up coffee for Phil and I and then returned home for a huge breakfast all around. We spent the rest of the day packing the old house on College Road and getting it cleaned up for the new tenants to move in next month.

Are we allowed to say “Winter in Coming” without a bunch of weird Game of Thrones memes littering the comments area? Maybe it’s just better to end with some poppy tune that really says goodbye to the season:

I like girls that
Wear Abercrombie and Fitch
I’d take her if I had one wish
But she’s been gone
Since that summer
Since that summer

Summer Girls by LFO
Posted in Dog Life, Fall Training, Running, trail running

The No Race Run on Moving Day

This is not a biking story.

Instead this is a story of Java and I running the Musk Ox Trail Run not for a race time, but for the sheer enjoyment of each others company…

…and to pick up pin flags from the course because I’m not sure I’m capable of doing anything for “fun”. I’m mission driven like my dog.

This race included several objectives:

  • Run a half marathon distance as part of training for the Klondike Road Relay.
  • Run the course of the Musk Ox Trail Run without actually racing. This course is hilly, slightly technical, and easy to get lost on if you aren’t paying attention. Plus the race insurance doesn’t allow dogs, and…
  • I needed to take Java somewhere for the afternoon so the guys could move the beds and couch to the new house.

The easiest way to accomplish all this was to pick up pin flags after the race was over. And what should have been a straightforward training run had some adventurous moments thrown in there.

Two weeks until my “B” race: a half marathon leg of the Klondike Road Relay. Java and I hit the trails for a training run last weekend while the guys moved all the heavy furniture to our new house.

First, was the iffy trail conditions. It had rained heavily the day before and so I expected the trail to be sloppy. On my own this wouldn’t be a problem; however, Java is a powerful 16 month old dog that we affectionately call “the huskador” because she likes to pull on her leash. And though she used to be so much worse, it is something she does when we run to get me to go faster, and not give up when I face something challenging like a really big hill. Unfortunately, when we are facing a really steep downhill with wet roots and mud, things can get dangerous. Only once did I lose footing on a root during the very steepest part of this race. And when Java heard me come to a halt in a crouched position she completely stopped. That didn’t stop her from trying to pull me, especially in the last two miles when I was completely tired.

Second, we had to deal with an aggressive dog with an owner that couldn’t control him, nor gave a real inclination that I should worry. Let me breakdown the conversation:

Her: Is your dog friendly?

Me: Yeah. She’s just a puppy.

Her: Well, my dog has the tendency to bring out the worse in other dogs.

Me: My dog just likes to play.

Her: Yeah. She won’t want to play after meeting my dog.

I barely think What? when her dog lunges at us, drags his owner across the trail to attack Java. Java yelps and I fall down the hill behind me as Java is trying to escape this dog. I have no idea if the owner even has a hold of the leash anymore and am fully ready to be bitten.

Eventually, we get out of reach of this crazy dog and the owner, who is sitting on the ground pulling her dog back to the trail. Java is sitting at my heels no blood and no sign of anxiety at this point. She is quiet and stoic as this lady apologizes. She then asks her dog why he is such a jerk. I don’t know how I managed to stay calm when I really wanted to ream her for not admonishing her dog’s behavior more.

She then told me that she was just going to sit there until we climbed out of the thorny brush ahead of her. I looked at all the stumps we had to climb over and told her that was not possible. We waited until she got up and got a down the trail. We climbed out and saw this dog trying to pull his owner back towards us.

From here on out Java is leery of every dog we meet on the trail. She does eventually warm up to another chocolate lab that we meet about a mile after the attack. I warn the owner about this crazy dog. He decides to go to the Secret Trail. Java and I make it to the turnaround point and begin to collect pin flags. We drop piles in several roadside areas and pick them up later.

If I were racing, I would probably finished the Musk Ox Trail Run in 2:45:00 or just a bit more. But picking up pin flags requires a lot of pausing, and we stopped a bit because of the dog attack and to let her play with the other Labrador. It was 3:39:00 before we made it back to the Musk Ox Farm where I finally got a photo of said beautiful animal. I thought Java might bark at it, but she was too preoccupied with food to care.

For the next couple of days I struggled to walk without grimacing. Java was running around the new house by 6pm that night. Oh to be young again…

Posted in Bikes, Fall Training, Mountain Biking

We Have No Snow Yet…WTF

Sunday is my birthday. Five days later, Java will turn seven months. Normally, we have snow.  Not just this fake frosty stuff that melts by 11am. I’ve pulled out the fat bike for our morning rides because I want wide, studded tires when I hit that frost. More so now that I’ve started training Java in the sport of bikejouring.

20181025_124815

Until today, she has only been running off-leash at 5am when there is no one else around. But the reality is that she will have moments that she will need to be leashed. Whether it is to cross a busy road, pass a dog mushing team, or allow other trail users to enjoy the day uninterrupted. She is well behaved for a seven month old dog, but she does not know how to keep herself from jumping on people when she greets them.  We work on it everyday, and it has gotten better. But not enough for a reliable performance on the trails.  Besides there is a borough leash law.  Not that everyone follows it. But the ones that don’t TEND to have well-trained dogs.  There are lots that don’t. Believe me I would run into them ALL THE TIME in the bird refuge or at the university. I don’t want Java to be THAT DOG. So we continue training and face the fact that she will have to be on the leash while we run and ride from time to time.

P.S. Bikejouring is kinda scary from a human perspective because the dog pulls you really, really fast. I am a bit terrified by how fast and powerful she is at this size.  I can only imagine what she will be like when she is older!

Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Fall Training, Mountain Biking, Winter Training

Bike Training For Java Begins

August is rainy season in Interior Alaska, which means the trails are filled with lake-sized puddles and some slippery terrain. Java and I are starting bike training in less than ideal conditions. The first bike ride was fine on the wood-chipped Skarland trail despite the freezing rain. The ride below was a little more precarious:

strava-1512090956.jpg
Check out my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1822364708/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1536236063&utm_source=org.wordpress.android&utm_medium=referral

 

Gilmore trail, a.k.a the Gold Discovery Race route, is rutted and greasy with puddles so deep a Loch Ness monster could live down there. I haven’t been taking her far distance-wise, as we want to build her strength and endurance slowly. But this two miles had some elevations and downhills that she can’t help but barrel down. I held my breath praying that she didn’t slip and injure herself again.

Java, in true fashion, took the path of least resistance (pun always intended). She used her trail skills to find pathways around the puddles or her horizontal leap to jump them; unless she was thirsty, then she was all in.

The sun has been out all weekend, but we’ve also started to have frost in the morning. So my trail selection will probably go back to beginner areas. My friend Andrew got a concussion during a bike crash up at Birch Hill during a Cyclocross Race. Java is getting better at staying out from under the wheel and focusing on the trail instead of nipping at my feet or hands. Still, the last thing I need to do is get tripped up and crash on top of her. In many ways snow would be much easier. Fewer people are on the trails and landing on snow is much more bearable than rocks and roots.