Friday, August 13, 2010

Cadence’s New Favorite Hobby

cade run2

Cade is officially a runner now.

We love running with our dogs.  With his long legs, Jade was a natural running partner in his younger days.  He could effortlessly trot alongside you for miles.  He wouldn’t even have to break stride when I would be running my fastest. 

Tristan, with his structural problems, was quickly eliminated as a long distance running buddy in his youth after coming up lame several times on short runs.  So, in recent years Django and Maebe have been our running companions.  It is perhaps Django’s favorite thing to do – he starts happy laps around the yard if he sees my running shoes come out.  Maebe is always very excited at the start, though eventually you see her start to wonder “OK, are we STILL doing this?”  She trots along happily though, and it is good for her.  Those who see her tearing up the agility courses would never believe what a colossal couch potato she actually is by nature, so it is nice that this helps keep her conditioned. 

Cadence is about sixteen months old now, so a couple weeks ago I decided he was grown enough to come along for a few runs.  I don’t start the dogs any younger than this, as I don’t want that much continuous pounding on their still-developing joints.  I figured his growth plates should be pretty much closed by now, so a couple weeks ago brought him along for the first time.

He is a natural, and he loves it.  He is now up to running with us three mornings a week, about 3.5 to 4 miles at a time.  He already knows the routine.  I let him out in the yard for a few minutes before we leave so he can stretch and warm up a bit first, and he waits excitedly at the door to be leashed up to go.  He settles into a nice effortless pace as soon as we hit the trails and happily takes in the morning as we trot along.

I have a love-hate relationship with running myself.  It took years for me to appreciate it, and I do mostly enjoy it now, but there are still the occasional runs where I am cursing it almost every step of the way.  I find running with the dogs makes the experience completely different though.  Raymond Coppinger described dogs as the world’s best endurance athletes, and watching my guys’ smooth, steady gait makes my own pace seem like less effort.  You notice more, and experience the run differently.  The goal isn’t just to do X number of miles, or to keep up a certain speed.  We stop at regular points along the trail to let the dogs cool off in the river, and watch the crew teams’ early workouts at the pond.  At the overgrown sections of trail, I watch Cade pick his way under the the leaves and fronds hanging across our path, and feel them, moist with morning dew, brushing against my arms and legs as we forge through.  We do occasional unplanned sprint intervals when over-confident rabbits run across our path for a few yards.

When we get to the top of the last hill, we already have had an adventure together before much of the neighborhood is even stirring.  We walk up the last block to home to cool down a bit, though Cadence already has his own post-run recovery ritual:

post run cool down  

Cool tile feels very good, apparently.

As much as I love training and competing, it is these simple times together that are the best part.

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