Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Back to the Peak

Today marked the return to our local peak. We abandoned this trail in late spring when the foxtails took over. The narrow single track with steep climbs and drop offs gave little room for Kona to avoid trouble with those barbed seeds.

This morning, I waited until dawn before arriving at the trailhead. I don't like to run alone with Kona in our forest before sun-up. I'm sure the big predators aren't any less active when we arrive at sunrise but having more light gives me peace of mind.
Because the trailhead sits on a street with through traffic, there's always more activity compared to our neighborhood trails. Subsequently, Kona has more trouble moving from the car to the trail. Unfortunately, the street was abuzz with pre-work activity and Kona was a freight train out of the car.

Right after getting off the street we ran into a pack of dogs. Two were still leashed and walking down a different trail and the other three were close to the entrance. I knew right away that the smallest of the off leash dogs was going to be trouble. Poor Kona was stressing and this little dog got all in her face, huffing and puffing. While the two big dogs were no trouble at all, this little guy would not let us move. He got snarly every time I tried to move around them. I gave their human a firm shout out, "Call your dogs."

She did, and not one of them looked up. While the human kept walking away, yelling for her dogs, the little dog kept at Kona. I finally tried body blocking him. When that didn't work, I gave him a strong poke-shove. Voila! He got the picture and moved away enough for us to get by. Yikes. While I don't condone using physical force on a dog. . .well, don't mess with my Kona.

Starting up the trail, I was both peeved and pissed. Why does someone bring a pack of dogs with no off leash skills and questionable social skills and let them run loose in an area with coyotes, mountain lions, deer, not to mention other dogs?

(Deep breath AC. Enjoy the sky.)

I stayed dissociated for awhile, flustered about the dog encounter. Before I knew it, we were at the mile marker. I was shocked how easy those first few minutes felt. At 2.5 miles, the run to the peak isn't especially long but it is all uphill and usually leaves me huffing and puffing. Not today! My legs felt strong and the climb (dare I say) felt easy. I felt a smidgen more confident about my marathon training.

Kona pulled out in front. She always seems nervous on this trail. I knew by her active nose that she wasn't that stressed but she did look all business. When I stopped to take pictures, Kona stood at full alert, sometimes looking worried about movement down canyon.
The ridge above us came closer and closer as we ran each switchback towards our peak. The forest just beyond the ridge was destroyed in last year's massive fire. Kona and I peaked into the burn area earlier in the year and it was truly a sight. Because the forest is so steep and rocky, the burn area will be closed indefinitely to keep hikers safe from landslides. I'm grateful that we still have trails to run.
We continued to make good time and made it to the peak at a record pace. As is tradition on this run, I let Kona pull me around the flat vista. Her nose worked double time, sounding like a vacuum.
Kona zig-zagged around the foundation of an old resort. While fires took the luxury destination years ago, remnants of the past still remain.
Before leaving, Kona stood at the edge of the old entrance steps, the city sprawled below her.
As winds kicked up, Kona stuck her nose in the air, edging too close for my comfort to the drop off just beyond her paw. It was time to get moving again.
As we started our descent, I was reminded how much I enjoyed our peak trail. Running downhill can be miserable, except when the terrain is just steep enough, just technical enough, just fast enough to feel like a rollercoaster! Once I convinced Kona to stay behind me, there was no braking. I turned up my proprioception to save my ankles and let gravity work.

I felt like I had springs in my shoes. We zigged around rocks and snapped around switchbacks. Kona's feet were fast at work behind me. Before I knew it, we passed the trailhead and headed toward the street.

Kona, the poor stressball, started hesitating. I kept running. I've yet to find anything to ease Kona's nerves when we approach streets, so I figured we might as well make it to the safety of the car sooner than later. As soon as I opened the car door, Kona made a flying leap into her crate. Safe!

So the beginning and end of our peak adventure weren't great but there was good stuff smooshed in the middle.


KB said...

I'd say that it was huge that Kona wasn't stressed and unhappy for the ENTIRE run after your initial dog encounter. It sounds like a huge victory for both of you. And, I'm so glad that you can go back to your favorite ridge!

I similar problems with what I refer to as our "local dog pack" - a neighbor and her 7 dogs who run on our trails every morning. The dogs are not even remotely trained. I have a pretty good routine to avoid them but... I'd resort to physical violence to protect my dogs if I needed to. I've told the woman that, and she told me that I had every right to defend my dogs - she wouldn't be mad. What an odd conversation! I think that she has no clue *how* to train a dog so she's at their mercy.

BTW, one phrase - "I turned up my proprioception to save my ankles..." tells me that you and I have worked in the same field!!!!! No wonder you wanted to know which tendon K ruptured!

Sara said...

I have scratch marks all over my car, from Oreo trying to get in faster than I could open the door!

I'm glad you & Kona were able to enjoy the middle of your run. She's quite brave when it comes to heights...standing on the edge like she's queen of the mountain!

Anonymous said...

ARGH! Loose doggies make my momma nuts. Specially, like you said, cuz so many of 'em don't listen to their peoples. AND they're not watching what their doggies are doing. One time we were on a trail (I was on a leash) and we saw some peoples coming up the trail with their doggies. So momma got us off the trail (I get nervous around strange dogs) and the peoples were all talk, talk, talking to each other while their dogs tried to come up to say hi to me. Mom had to practically yell at them to get their dogs cuz they didn't even know what their dogs were doing. Yeesh!

Anyway, other than that, it sounds like all in all you had a very much nice run!

Wiggles & Wags,

Stella said...

Kona sounds like she has a lot of control that she didn't used to have. Bless her for that! And bless you for understanding her so well.

Stella (and Jo)

Two Pitties in the City said...

Your runs look so great, and I just love those final pictures of Kona. It sounds like you're having a good taper.

Diana said...

Peoples dogs being off leash drives me crazy. And to top if off they dont even realize how rude and unsafe they are being. There is this one runner at the park. He has two lean labs. He lets them off leash to jog with him but they never even look at my dogs or me when we pass. Sometimes they leave him , go down the bank,run thur the water, but come right back up and are at his side again. He is the only one I dont have a problem with letting his dogs off leash.

I think you did the right thing. Diana

Priscilla said...

So glad that you could go back to your favourite trail and two of you had a good run up and down the hill.

What a lovely place you two go, I love the pictures and Kona always look proud on the edge. She's so brave and so are you!

Untrained off-leash dogs always pose a threat to others. I always feel insecure whenever I see any off-leash dogs around me when I walk Eva and I think Eva senses my nervousness too.

Dream Valley Ranch said...

I so undertake your reaction and frustration to the loose untrained dogs. I react the same way when I run I to loose dogs that aproach my crew-what a happier experience all around if dogs were either leashed or well trained!

Congrats to Kona on enjoying her run in between the scary street moments-what a brave girl!

I am jealous of your running and training. My body has taken such a beating these last two years from running our little sanctuary that i stoooed running...but I hope to add it back to my world soon!

Lots of taik wags to beautiful Kona from our little pack in Colorado!
Sue and the crew at Dream Valley Ranch

Sam said...

I'm totally with you. I'm all for non-physical methods of dog handling, but if a dog is messing with my dog, I'll do what I have to, within reason, to protect her. I've told of lots of big-goofy happy dogs by getting right between them and Marge and essentially pushing in to them. Thankfully, we haven't really had any snarky ones run up to us.

I can't believe how quickly your marathon is approaching!

LauraK said...

I'm glad you two are back on the peak trails again- sorry to hear about your snotty dog encounter, those small ones are usually the worst. Some people shouldn't even own dogs, let alone having them be off leash out of control. Good for you for being able to take control of the situation, put it behind you, and enjoy running with your favorite pal :)

Barb said...

What grand views you had up there! I am always a bit sorry for untrained dogs and a little miffed at their people. Who would think that an untrained barking dog would be welcomed by other recreation path users? I love, love, love that last green shot.

Dawn said...

You are SOOOO ready for your marathon! Isn't it wonderful when the run surprises us by being easier than you thought it would be!

Glad you're psyched for the race and had a good run prior to. This is going to be FUN!!