Friday, July 09, 2010

Poundin' Head and an Achin' Back

Running with a dog is no joke. You can clock your fastest mile, and slowest in one run. You can have an amazing split, or a split that leaves you with a torn groin. You can become one with your four-legged-partner and be completely in-sync for a hundred meters, and then you can become the body attached to a leash that's preventing the hunter from getting his prey.

I've said in the past that in achieving goals, especially weight oriented ones, it's important to have an anchor. If you've been subscribing and following since the beginning of The Bosky Blog you know who my anchor is, and it just so happens that my anchor can run 20 mph if he so chooses. Unlike most people's anchor, mine is not only figurative but quite literal. He's on a rope, that pulls me.

This goes without saying as well, but the sled-dog in him makes for a unruly leash dog. Anyone with a dog that's bred to draft knows that you strap a leash on they instinctively go: "PULL PULL PULL MUST PULL." Goliath is no different. You know this. Studies show that dogs who were bred to work are missing a neurotransmitter that tells them when to stop, which quite literally means some dogs will and can work or run themselves to death.

There are mornings where I feel like I am missing the neurotransmitter, and then there are days when I WISH I didn't have it. Intrinsically, humans aren't designed to run forever. We aren't fashioned for the purpose to save Alaska, like Balto. Being able to run for 3.1, 6.2, 13.1, 26.2, 50+ are feats we train and condition ourselves to do. So while I have spent two years training myself for various distances, I've also been simultaneously leash training. Continually leash training.

Not a day goes by where Goliath doesn't forget he's attached to me. He has dislocated fingers, and my shoulder, popped my wrist, abetted in pulling groin muscles more than three times and was the primary reason for a pretty severe knee injury last winter. Why do I reiterate this? I've come to resent running with him. He's clearly a better runner than I, and ok I'll say it-although more skilled, he can make running for me miserable. I never thought I'd get to point where running with him would be more chore than choice. For the last month, I convince myself to go without him-but the guilt alone would ruin a run.

The obvious toll that 70lbs on a nylon leash puts on my frame has really been starting to get to me. After a long run with G, I not only feel like I ran X miles but I also feel like I was abused along the way. My right arm feels like it should be amputated, groin needs to be iced from all the awkward jerks after squirrels and my back and neck are so exhausted from straining to be his resistance. Honestly, I'm not sure how my body has handled it for so long. I've built up callouses so I no longer get leash burn, but that's about the only adaptation I've made to compensate.

Clearly, something needed to change. Kinda desperate I looked into obedience classes, made some calls-but a lot of trainers echoed one of my biggest fear: It's instinct, you can train a dog until you're blue in the face but instinct will always be there. No, no one said he couldn't get better-they just warned, it might always be a problem. Wednesday, I stopped in PetSmart sans Goliath to pick up his monolithic bag of food. I meandered through a few aisles, just to see if there was anything I was missing and I found myself in collars and leads. My heart got a little heavy, wishing that it was just as easy as a retractable 1/8 inch thick nylon chord. I longed to purchase the 6 feet of Jayhawk bedazzled nylon. Then, something caught my eye. It was bright. It was orange. It whispered my name. The hunting leads gave me a little wink, and said Hey we are made for prey-driven-workin'-dogs. I pulled eight feet of lead off a rack, and held it in my hands like I had just received prophecy.

Reality, quickly set in. Being orange and having two more feet of nylon isn't going to solve genetics. ...but maybe...No, I knew it wasn't like I'd snap on this lead and Goliath would suddenly think Oh hayyyy, shiny new leash? Better behave! So I hung it back up, and headed toward check out-until something else whispered my name. Julia...have you ever though about trying something like ME out? A baltic blue harness said. Why no? Think it would help?

I stared at the Large Breed harnesses. Fully prepared to bite the bullet, and put my foot in my mouth. Being such a snob, I've always said that MY dog will never wear a harness, he'll be properly trained. How foolish of me. How judgemental of me. How incredibly incredibly stupid of me that the answer was here, all along and I IGNORED it because of pride. I quickly grabbed the harness, backtracked to the bright orange wonderfulness-and checked out before you could say fartlek.

I sped home, clumsily fit Goliath into his new hardware. The garmin logged five miles, and it was magical. No, not the garmin-the run. Goliath and I formed this totally invincible running machine. I looped him around my waist, so he was at my center of gravity. I didn't even notice him, and we both had the most fantastic time. When we arrived home, a little tear made it's way out. I tried to tell Logan how amazing it was, but words couldn't describe. I love Goliath, and I love running too-but I love running with Goliath more than anything. It's our common ground, and without it I don't know if I have much to offer him. So thank you PetSmart harness and hunting lead, you saved my life.


Mileage: 5.01
Time: 48:01.12

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