Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dora the Explorer

Last spring we adopted a lovable mutt named Dora from a local animal shelter. This energetic lab/border collie cross has been my faithful running companion and has done all my ultra training with me. She's a near ideal training partner and never complains about the pace, distance, weather or my singing (if you can call it that - squawking might be a more accurate description). Ninety percent of the time, I love running with her but there are a few instances when I wish I would have left her at home. My long run this weekend was one of those times.

I'm fortunate to live near a number of great trails where dogs can freely roam off-leash so that's where I log most of my miles. Halfway through a 2.5 hour run on one of these trails, Dora sped ahead and then disappeared into the forest. This is not the first time she has done this. While well-behaved most of the time, she has a weakness for chasing birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer...you get the idea. I don't mind her going after the smaller forest beasties as they don't travel as far but when she is on a deer chase she can be gone for much longer periods which is both stressful and inconvenient (for me - her not so much).

Once I realized that she was long gone, I figured it was a good opportunity to stop for a pee, snack and to change my layers. Having completed these tasks with no sign of the dog reappearing, I started to get worried and annoyed. I called for her and then pulled out my whistle (which lets her know that I mean business). A few short blasts summoned up the spine-tingling howls of a nearby pack of coyotes.

For the umpteenth time since we've had the dog, I thought "Oh no, the coyotes must have got her" so I started running in the direction of the coyotes, yelling to Dora that I was on my way to rescue her and tooting my whistle because I didn't know what else to do. I paused briefly to determine in which direction I should continue and almost immediately two huge whitetail deer came bounding by me followed by one little black dog. Turns out, I didn't have to rescue the dog from the coyotes; I had to rescue the deer from the dog.

Sadly, I know I'll be in this situation again and one of these times the outcome won't be as favourable. I have tried running with her on leash but it's not always safe, or easy, to do on technical single-track trails and we both find these excursions much more satisfying when we're not tethered to each other. An electronic collar works well if I can zap her before she is out of range but she moves quickly so there's not always a lot of time. She's still young so maybe she will outgrow the chase instinct but I'm not counting on it.

I guess I'll just have to put up with this character flaw in my furry little training buddy and hope that our runs together will give her the speed and endurance to get out of trouble if she strays too far.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hello 2012!

We're already a few weeks into the new year and so far it's going well. I'm a sucker for new beginnings and the start of a new year is no exception. It's a great time to look ahead, set goals and figure out how to achieve them. I made the decision to work with a coach this year in an effort to improve my fitness for ultras and I'm really excited about it.
After asking a few runner friends (and complete strangers on FaceBook) for recommendations, I found a coach in Vancouver who has lots of experience both running and coaching ultras. I'm only a couple of weeks into my program, but I already notice a difference. Maybe there really is something to these "tempo" and "speed" workouts that I've heard people talk about...
I'm sure I'm not the only person to have fallen into the trap of running the same routes at the same pace on the same days for all my training. I don't get bored easily (which is good if I am going to be an ultra runner) but I am enjoying this new training schedule that changes every week.
Another change I contemplated for the new year was giving up alcohol. I am not a big drinker but I would probably have a glass of wine or beer with dinner 5 nights a week. I don't think I'm ready to give up drinking entirely, but will probably try to stick with just 1-2 small drinks a week instead.
I also briefly considered giving up my morning cup(s) of coffee, but that hasn't happened yet and isn't likely to any time soon. A girl's gotta have at least one bad habit!