Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mountain Legs

Today was our first mountain run. Sure, we've run our local peaks and steep neighborhood trails, but we've never run at high elevation. I stepped out of the car, breathing in the fresh air. I knew it would warm up soon, so reveled in the dim morning light.
I followed the creek's rhythm to relax into an even stride.
My lungs relaxed, but my legs struggled on the scree trails. Kona kept me moving as she tugged on my line. I let her hunt chipmunks to her heart's desire. The stalking breaks gave me time to rest.
As we ran higher, the sun dipped into the canyon.
Just as I began to curse my malfunctioning legs, the trail became steeper and my stride became stronger. I thought I had gained a second wind, but then noticed the trail. The loose scree and rocks turned to hardpack. What a difference the trail made!
While nothing slows Kona down, she was willing to stop at our saddle. We had reached our destination! Kona looked down the canyon and I smiled in satisfaction.
The sun was bright, but the saddle funneled wind between canyons. I put on my vest as I ate my Cliff Bar and handed Kona treats (in between her sight-seeing).
Kona did amazing during our break. She drank water, took treats and didn't whine. She deserved a reward. . .A game of Find the Lizard before we headed home.

Our descent started well, but as we got closer to the parking lot, the trail became busier. A stone's throw away from the trailhead, we ran into a trail crew (6 burly men, carrying shovels and pushing a wheelbarrow) and Kona gave me her first "Oh hell no!" reaction in a long time. Unfortunately, the sides of the trail were too steep for me to navigate and give Kona more space around the scary crew. She was finally able to balance her own way across the steep slope while I stayed on the trail.

I never like to finish a run on a stressful note, but I think we had enough good moments to make up for it. There's got to be some behavior modification rule that goes something like that. . .

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's Your Anchor?

It's been one of those days. Three hours spent on the phone to fix the internet, only to find out there's a "power outage" with our server so I just have to wait. No internet means little work done. Painters are working on the outside of the house (for 9 hours), creating a seriously nervous Kona dog...

But the day started well!

It was another overcast morning, the marine layer so low that mist clouded the hills.
While I stopped to breathe in the fog, Kona practiced a sit. She broke it after a few seconds, but sat again when I asked her to and didn't whine.
I couldn't blame her for not wanting to stay still. There was a more important task at hand. Yes, it's wabbit hunting season. (If you enlarge the picture, you can just make out Kona's target in the distance).
I jogged at a steady pace, amazed that July has brought so many cool mornings. Kona moved at her own pace, running ahead, then freezing, then charging.
As we crossed the road that divides our trail, the sun seemed to rise out of the ground. I paused for awhile and took out my water bottle to offer Kona something to drink. To my shock and delight, she drank! Kona usually turns her head away from my water bottle, too hypervigilant to notice her thirst. I soaked up our victory moment.
As we climbed the steep section of trail, the sun barely seeped through the clouds. The sky looked surreal, like a movie backdrop.

I finished our run feeling refreshed. As the day unfolded in a series of inconveniences and frustrations, I became ever more grateful for my peaceful morning. I'm reminded how trail time with Kona helps me ride through the rest of the day, even the hair-pulling ones.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Help Me Run the NYC Marathon and Fight Cancer

I have exciting news. I was able to snag an entry ticket for the New York City Marathon in November. What's even more exciting? I snagged a spot on Livestrong's Team Fatty to raise money to fight cancer while I train.

For those who don't know Fatty, he's a cycling blogger who lost his wife to breast cancer about a year ago. He's done some amazing work with the Livestrong Foundation to raise funds to help fight cancer.

So this is a big deal for a couple reasons. First, the New York City Marathon is HUGE. Some forty thousand athletes attend and it's not easy to get a slot to race. I'm feeling really lucky to get to explore New York for the first time in the spirit of a giant athletic event.

Second, cancer hits close to home. I'm sure that's the same for many of you. So I will raise funds and run in memory of Grandma, Mrs. Bachand and Aunt Kathy, and will run in support of Aunt April, Angela and Dr. Leon.

Here's where I need help. I need to raise $3,500. I've promised Livestrong that I will raise that amount and they're holding my credit card hostage until I do. If you're able to, you can donate to my fundraising page here.

I did some really hard math and figured out that if everyone donates just $10, I'll only need 350 people to donate. Here's also where I could use your help. I'm a hermit and spend my spare time running with my dog in the mountains, so my social circle is about as impressive as my favorite wool running socks that I stitched back together after Kona had fun with them. If anyone's up for it, please link my fundraising page to your facebook page, twitter account, blog post etc. Spread the word because I think if we do, we'll be able to throw that fundraising number out of the ballpark, and that would be a big hit against cancer.

Even our girl Kona benefits. We'll be out for more long runs in the coming weeks. So Kona asks for your support too. Who could resist that face?

There's a roll call on the side of my fundraising page that names everyone this race is for. I'm not sure how it works, so if you can't add a name to that when you donate, please list your names in the comments here. Simply write: "In memory of" or "In support of." I will compile all these names on an article of clothing (not sure what just yet) and wear it during the marathon.

Thanks a ton for your support. I'll update on my progress and bring you more running with Kona stories as we train!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Little Faker

I put my shoes on this morning and Kona, who usually helps me put my socks on, curls up in her bed and turns her back to me. She only does this if she's not feeling well or is just too tired for a run. I figure she's had a busy and stressful week, so she might need to skip a trail workout.

I settle into work and a half hour later, Kona starts pawing my leg. I take her outside, throw her lizard, practice some obedience, come back inside.

Five minutes later, she's arfing at the cabinet where I stash her stuffies. I hand her her lion. I take her lion away after she rips the ear off and devours some stuffing. I ask her to lay down.

Ten minutes go by. I think she must have finally settled down, so I look up over my computer to check in. Here's what I find...

Tired, eh?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coyote Mornings

Yesterday the cloud cover kept up cool again. Kona and I headed to our usual trail for some exercise and exploring. The humidity was high, the extra moisture bringing out more smells for Kona. I kept a close eye on her snout, steering clear of stickers.

When we reached the top of our steepest descent, Kona stopped to wait for me. I'd like to think that she has been well trained to not pull me down these hills, but I think she's really worried about me slipping and scaring her. All the same, she even offered a sit when I didn't catch up fast enough. She looked up at me, looking pitifully nervous and painfully cute.
The first half of our hike was quiet. Without the sun casting a golden hue, the hills looked nothing but parched. The fire from last fall looked like it happened just overnight. (I realized that I have photographed this tree several times. I wonder what it is that catches my attention.)
The trail was so quiet that I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard footsteps approaching behind us. I whipped around quickly to see a coyote sprint up the trail away from us. He stopped several yards away to keep an eye on me and Kona. Kona stopped to keep an eye on him.

It took some convincing to pull her away from her coyote watch.
This morning, on the way out the door, another coyote ran across our driveway. It stopped to sniff the neighbor's cat who hid safely under a car. Kona took her position as coyote watchdog and made sure it scampered out of sight before jumping in the car for our morning adventure.

Visitors (of the human variety)
We had out of town visitors over yesterday who stayed the night and left late this morning. Kona had never met them before and I was bit worried about having three strangers as overnight guests.

I'm happy to report that Kona coped quiet well. Amazingly, she didn't let out a single bark or growl. (I think this was partly because she was so overwhelmed by the activity when they first arrived. She usually only barks at guests when they first come in, unless they are particularly scary). She even showed off her wiggle bum and snuck in a few kisses to our girl guest (boys are still too scary).

Whenever our guests were seated, she was able to hang out and even relax in the room with us. Movement makes her the most scared, so she became skittish if anyone got up to move around. I did what I could to try and direct her to a safe spot so she wouldn't get trapped anywhere while people moved.

It seems kind of lazy on my part, but Kona seems to do best with visitors when she's allowed to do her own thing. Treats seldom help her relax. She becomes more anxious if I put her away in another room. I just kept an eye out, kept instructing our guests to completely ignore her, and gave her breaks outside to help bring her anxiety down.

I tried not to beam too much when one guest commented that Kona, "Isn't nearly as bad," as I had described. =0)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weather Break and V.E.T.

When we got to our trailhead, the goosebumps on my arms announced the break in the heat wave. I've tried to get outside as early as possible lately to beat the rising temperatures. Today, a light marine layer shaded the sun and kept us cool.
As we reached our first goofy-steep hill, the sun brushed the trail ahead of us.
I stopped to take a picture of Kona, but she was distracted by a rustle in the bushes. . .

. . .that quickly became even more interesting.
I moved us along to avoid a pounce attack. We hiked an empty trail, not running into the other Monday morning "regulars". With her nose high in the air, Kona soon reminded me that we weren't the only ones on the ridge. I'm sure she picked up the scent of a doe. We seem to be running into them more often lately. Kona usually alerts me with her nose, and my (less impressive) eyes find the doe later.
Unfortunately for Kona, we had to head to the vet after our hike for her annual vaccinations. I wish there was something I could do to help Kona with vet trips. I gave her a calming aid before we left, but I have a feeling that she didn't get enough of it because it wasn't as effective as it was during her previous vaccination trip.

The staff at the office know Kona now and asked me if it was alright for the tech to give her the vaccines instead of the vet so we could get out of there quicker. I like our vet because of these small things. Our previous vet's office always took Kona into the back to have a tech vaccinate her. Our new vet does the vaccinations himself and is always in the room with us.

Kona's less comfortable with the tech, but I opted to get out of there as quickly as possible. The tech got down on the floor with me, gave Kona two pokes on the rear and we were out of there 60 seconds later. Yah! Now fingers crossed that Kona's not afraid of me in the morning.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Dusty Path Flanked With Gold

I stayed outside last night until the sun hovered on the horizon and the mosquitoes chased me indoors. A weather system moved across the sky, painting wisps of pink as the sun set over the clouds. I knew this morning would bring another inspired sky. It did.

I knew the stormy sky would bring rain somewhere, as the humidity slowed my pace. (Sure enough, our local news station warned of flash floods and thunderstorms.) The heat left Kona panting, and she didn't seem to mind as I lingered to watch the sky. She even seemed relaxed as I snapped a picture of her next to our rusted barbed wire fence. I often wonder who put the fence up and what line in guarded so many decades ago.
As we hiked on, the sun crested over the forest in the east, turning the scorched landscape into a hillside of gold.

We turned around into the rising sun. I was grateful for the steep climb that blocked the blinding rays.

When we reached our turnoff point for the car, I decided to keep hiking. Kona followed without hesitation. A year ago, a change in routine would have shot her anxiety through the roof. It's the small things that remind me that I often have no idea what I'm doing with this little dog, but maybe we're on the right path.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Winter in July

I had to use the windshield wipers on the way to the trailhead this morning. When I got out of the car, I looked down the first stretch of trail that normally boasts a view of downtown. This morning, grey covered the city.
I zipped up my vest and Kona and I took off. Looking around, it felt like summer had come and gone, leaving the hills scorched. The morning's moisture was too late to bring life back to the landscape. Witch's Hair suffocated the last stretch of green mustard plants.
I saw animal tracks - first skunk and then raccoon. The trail seemed to be well used the past few days. Perhaps the city scavengers sought refuge from the mayhem of the 4th. Whatever the case, Kona checked out the scene.

We had the noisiest 4th of July that I can remember. Kona, who has never had issues with fireworks, ended up pacing the house, looking for a hiding place on Sunday. Thankfully, her crate worked as a safe haven, but she's seemed off-kilter and ailed by stomach troubles the past few days. I was grateful to have an empty trail to try to reboot this morning.
When we turned around to head home, I stopped to wipe water off my forehead. I took a deep breath to fill my lungs with cool air. It's July, but today was summer's intermission.