Saturday, March 9, 2013

2013 Dog Days 5K

Old Dog
Dudley Dooright just turned 8 years old, and the years are taking their toll.
His hips sway and sag when he walks. When he gets up, his legs are stiff and there is a pronounced limp. Sometimes he will stand at the top of the stairs, hesitant to go down, because he knows it's going to hurt (lately I've been doing the same thing).

When he was young we would count the number of tennis balls we would throw for him, and we would give up when we hit 100. Nowadays, he doesn't make it past 5 before he lays down panting.

Getting too old to race?
Running Dog
Dudley was never the most athletic or graceful dog. His run is kind of a lumbering trot. Even in his youth he would overheat in 50 degree weather, and Jeffery the 3 legged dog could outlast him.

So physically he was never a great runner, but he does have the perfect instinct for it.  He absolutely loves to run more than anything else. I could give him a big juicy steak, but he would drop it to follow me out for a run.

Most dogs want to stop and sniff and pee on things, but he just wants to go forward. On a leash, he will match my pace, whatever it is, steady and constant. Sure, he will check out other dogs,  people, and squirrels as we pass, but he wont break stride. And if we are following someone, he must pass them. He just has to be in front.

Racing Dog
This makes him a great racing dog. His first was the CARA 5K in 2009, where he came in top dog, and remains the poster child on their facebook page.

Next, he and I defeated Shannon and Jeffery with the help of some dastardly tricks at the Umstead Coalition Run. He again was top dog and second place mammal, and just 28 seconds behind speedy human Jeff Hall.

Last month I saw the Dog Days 5K, which advertised: "Most races don't let you run with your dogs, this one encourages it!"
I had to sign us up. Dudley may not get many more chances to race.

Shave and a Haircut
But he needed some help if he wanted to be running out in front.
Last night I gave him a haircut to keep him cool. I filled half a big grocery bag with hair.

There could be small dog in there somewhere

I used an 8 year old electric razor that I bought from Costco for $20. It is so dull it could only cut a few hairs at a time before it started to smoke. Still I think I did a great job! I should open my own grooming business. Please contact me for an appointment.

I was actually afraid to take him out in public.
I thought I might be arrested for animal cruelty
Banned Substance?
This morning I doped him up with 8mg of Metacam to take the edge off his arthritis. In my own personal experience, masking pain with drugs so that you can run is a terrible idea that will make things worse in the long run. But our veterinarian recommended it, and this was a special occasion. I hoped there would be no drug testing at the race.

Dooright couldn't contain himself as I tried to pick up the bib and chip. Although he had only been to 2 races, I swear he knew what was going on. He mostly ignored all the other people and dogs, and kept encouraging me to just start sprinting across the field at the NC State University Club.
"Hold on... not yet..."

Although  50° was somewhat chilly for me, he was already panting. I had brought some bottles filled with ice water and sprayed him down.

"Oh, that's an... interesting... looking dog you have there", a guy came up and pet Dudley.
"Yeah. He gets really hot", I said.
"Oh", said the guy, looking disgusted at his hand, now covered in wet dog hair clippings, "That explains the why he is shaved down."

I scoped out the competition. Many of the runners were veterinary students, young and fit, and potentially very fast. There were a lot of equally fit and swift looking labs and shepherd dogs there.
Dooright, with his graying muzzle and his 85 pound bulky frame, looked out of place.

"It's OK", I whispered to him,"They aren't racing dogs"

The race started, and Dooright sprinted off at top speed, but not in the right direction.
I reeled him in and got him on the right track, and we settled in behind a young woman with a black and white bull dog, and a guy with a small Australian shepherd

The shepherd made the mistake of drifting into the path of Dooright, who was moving like a freight train at a sub 6 minute pace. Before I could pull Dudley back, he ran the smaller dog right over, like a bus running over a bicycle. The poor dog rolled onto its back, bounced into the air, and flew into the legs of his human, who tripped and stumbled. Fortunately he didn't fall.

"OH! I'm so sorry!", I gasped, trying to keep up with the freight train.
"It's OK". They didn't miss a beat and kept running.

Mile 1
Even with Dooright throwing down a ridiculous pace, there was still a few people hanging with us. 
A guy running solo in a white shirt and headphones fought for the lead.
We headed through a parking lot, down a gravel road and onto a soft dirt trail.
My legs were struggling to keep up, just a week after the punishment in the Umstead Marathon. But this was Dudley's day, and I was trying to let him run it his way, out in front.

When we hit the trail, Dooright got 6 years younger, and dropped the headphones guy. We were in the lead!
Unfortunately though, he was having trouble reading the bright orange arrows marking the course.
It took some skillful maneuvering to guide him through that section. 

Mile 2
We hit the "cross country" part of the course, which was a rolling path along the boundary of a wide rectangular field. I looked back and saw the little shephard and human maybe 50 yards behind. They had recovered from being run over and were closing fast. 
I was already tired and holding us back, but made an effort to pick the pace back up along the straightaway.
Dooright responded and moved slightly ahead of me without tugging on the leash.

We finished the first loop, and at the halfway point a volunteer offered a bottle of water. 
"Yes! Thank you!", this was perfect. Dudley would be getting hot.
As we ran by a small green pond he tried to dive in and run through it. This is his usual tactic when we run by the lake. "Sorry! Not today!"
I took the cap off the bottle and started dousing him as we ran.

Mile 3
We got through the trail section quicker with Dudley remembering the way this time. 
We started catching up to people still on their first loop, and Dooright surged each time he saw a new opportunity to pass someone. 
Back in the field, I saw that we had gained ground on second place, but I was running out of gas quickly. I couldn't believe we might actually win.

A women crosses the finish line with her doberman
As we approached, they stretched out some pink tape across the finish line waiting for us.
This confused Dudley, who thought it meant it was off limits. With some coaxing I got him to break the tape, just under 20 minutes in 19:53. 

So Dudley Dooright won the race outright. Not just first dog, but first mammal! (There might have been some birds up there who beat us). I came in second place as first human.

Pretty good for an 8 year old dog, and a 42 year old guy, but slow for a winning time. If we had did the "Run for Oaks" just down the the road that same morning, we would have come in 33rd place.

Dooright cheers on the participants
Afterwards we hung out and took photos, cheered on the other folks, talked with the competition, and picked up some free stuff.

I tried not to take all the free dog treats this time
When we were heading out to leave, instead of getting in the car, Dudley wanted to do another loop of the course.
"Ug. No way. Let's go home", he might not be getting old yet, be I am.

Poster dog

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