Monday was my first day back to “reality.” I’m not sure “reality” is a great term for the non-dog world. One of the best parts about the dog world is how present and gritty it is. However, let’s just call it “reality” for now, since it’s the reality most people are wrestling with on a daily basis. The reality of go to work, come home, eat dinner, rinse and repeat. (And let’s emphasize that my “go to work” is “go do fun things with cool people” 99% of the time, because I am so, so lucky to have a job that is that.) Well, Monday morning I woke up early and fed dogs, and then hustled over to Palmer for work, and then at the end of the day on Monday I was back in “reality.” (The quotes won’t go away! Just part of the name I guess.)
Reality began with a Happy Run. You may remember the Happy Run amazingness from this other post about foot races, but if not, it’s a 2-4 mile run that happens every Monday starting at the building I work in. It’s put on by Active Soles, an awesome shoe store and all around great company.
Well, except in the epic 17-dog hookups I’ve been doing at Red Dog Racing the past two weeks (which can involve some running), I haven’t put feet to the pavement for a while now. My last people run was probably a Happy Run three weeks ago. Also, it’s been a super long time since I’ve run without Hooch. Roman will tell you, Hooch is an aid. She’s pretty brilliant at pulling with just enough pressure to increase your speed without unbalancing you. It’s like she is a professional running puller. I don’t know.
Anyway, long story short, the Happy Run was… exciting. I went into the run pretty determined not to do the long run. For these weekly deals, you can either do a short (usually about 2 mile) or long (around 4 mile) run. The only time I’ve done the short run is the very first time I did the Happy Run, when I didn’t know where I was going, and a kid told me to turn early. That was the same Happy Run that I wandered around the Ale House for about twenty seconds before leaving and totally missing the raffle, because I had no idea what was going on.
Running felt good. Although even just two weeks of carrying buckets has definitely given me some muscle tone again, my cardio has fallen right off. I was decently consistent this summer with running, mostly because Hooch needed me to be. But once you involve 16 other dogs, and throw a four wheeler in there, suddenly the human side of the equation gets a lot less aerobic. I don’t want that to be the case this winter– I like feeling like my lungs can keep up with things a little. One of the weirdest moments in mushing is when you are walking around doing chores in deep snow like the Michelin Man, and realize that despite deep cold, you are sweating like you’re in the jungle, and you can’t breathe. So, foot races will continue to be a thing.
I was thinking a lot of the dogs and of Hooch while I ran. Roman got me back into running two summers ago. I was pretty determinedly opposed to it after a semi-traumatic run of it in Cross Country in high school. I’m not sure from whence this trauma stemmed, but I can guarantee it was there. Before every race I would work myself into a fit of anxiety which sometimes involved puking. Again, not for a particular reason. There was no pressure to win: I was consistently terrible. I was really good at getting third to last. I did run like a swamp beast, or more accurately like Godzilla: this was my nickname, as bestowed upon me by my teammates after several instances of scaring the daylights out of them. Who doesn’t like an oncoming slathering beast, breathing as though on life support and stomping like a river dancer with cement blocks for feet? Godzilla it was.
Roman taught me to run better, and Godzilla was tamed a little (I still scare runners when I come up behind them, but this time it’s just a minor jump from the skin). Last year I ran my first half-marathon, which I thought was completely mostly out of reach. But what I thought was really impossible, and what changed, was that my anxiety went away. Or, I was able to conquer it. It took work and surviving many anxious runs: now running is just something I do, and something I even like.
Hooch loves to run. Obviously. I mean, look at that face. She’s in her happy place with feet on the ground. I’ll admit I was a little nervous to see how she’d like being back at the kennel life– the truth is, she’s in hog heaven (dog heaven?). I’m pretty sure she’s going to be happy to be back to a dog bed this summer, but when fall was threatening, there was something in that dog looking snow-ward. When I thought of her joy in that constant, mile-eating trot, my own feet ate the miles, and I opted for four miles instead of two. I felt pretty good about it too. Sure, maybe a few more runs in between wouldn’t hurt… But for now, the Happy Run has earned it’s name. Soon enough, it’ll be my hitch again, and the dogs and I will do some happy runs together.