Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Running With Your Dog.


Follow these 12 rules to stay safe when running with your dog.  From the AVMA...

Run, Spot, Run! -American Veterinary Medical Association

"See Spot run. Spot's having fun...or is he? Just as running isn't the sport for everyone, it's not the sport for every dog. Even if your dog seems to love chasing things and running around the yard, that doesn't mean your pooch will take to running."

"The pros of a canine running partner can be numerous. Many runners say their dog enjoys running and helps keep them motivated – after all, you might be able to shrug off your human workout partner's teasing when you skip a workout, but it's tough to ignore the expectant look of a canine workout partner (or their cold nose against your skin, which is much more effective than an alarm clock!). It can be great exercise and, given our two- and four-legged populations' trend toward being overweight, it's pretty clear we all need more exercise. Running can also be a good bonding experience for both of you.

However, there is a downside to running with your canine companion. For one, running injuries aren't restricted to two-legged runners. Remember that you're most likely wearing well-padded shoes that provide support and cushion when you run, but your dog is barefoot. Being barefoot isn't that tough when a dog is running on grass or other natural ground surfaces, but running on concrete, asphalt, gravel or other hard surfaces can put a lot of stress on your dog's body and can put them at risk of injury to their legs, paws or paw pads.

Your dog's breed (or predominant breed) may play a role, too. Keep in mind that a Husky or other breed with a thick hair coat might be much happier in cold weather and pretty miserable in the heat, but a short-coated dog such as a greyhound or whippet might need to wear a jacket to run in cooler weather.
If you have a short-nosed (the technical term is "brachycephalic") dog, such as a pug, boxer, mastiff or bulldog (for a longer list, check out the Wikipedia entry), running may too risky. These dogs have abnormalities in their airways (especially the nose and throat) that make it harder for them to breathe when exerting themselves, and can increase their risk of heatstroke during warm weather. Consult your veterinarian before running with any short-nosed dog.

Additional considerations for warm weather running

Have you ever run in a fur coat? Your dog is doing it every time they run, so if you're feeling warm, your dog is feeling much warmer. Most importantly, dogs don't have the same cooling mechanisms we do - a dog's primary method of cooling is panting, and it's not as efficient as sweating. (Although dogs do have some sweat glands in their paw pads, they play little to no role in cooling off your dog, and certainly will not help when your dog is overheating.) Running with your dog during the hottest parts of the day is a recipe for potentially deadly heatstroke.

Additional considerations for cold weather running

In the winter, ice, snow and ice melting products can damage your dog's paws. If your dog has a short hair coat or is less tolerant of cold temperatures, you'll need to protect him/her with a coat. In severe cold, remember there is a risk of frostbite, especially on the ear tips.

To keep you and your pet safe when running, follow these simple rules:
1. Consult your veterinarian before starting your dog on any exercise program. Make sure your pet is healthy enough and ready to run.
2. If your dog is overweight, running isn't the best way to start – talk to your veterinarian about a diet and gradual exercise program that begins with walks and gradually works up to running.
3. Do not begin running with your dog until you are confident that your dog has good leash manners.
4. Plan your route. Know where you're going, as well as places to take a break if you or your dog needs to cool off.
5. Start with shorter distances and gradually build up.
6. Take enough water for you and your dog.
7. Do not run during the warm hours of the day during the warm seasons, and avoid the coldest times of day during winter unless your dog tolerates the weather extremes. During extreme weather, you should probably leave your pet at home (and also consider your own safety when deciding whether or not to run outdoors in extreme weather conditions).
8. If your dog must wear a jacket/coat while running in cool/cold weather, make sure the jacket fits well, doesn't have hanging straps that could tangle in your dog's legs, and doesn't interfere with your dog's leg movements, breathing, sight, hearing or ability to open his/her mouth.
9. Watch for signs of a problem while running, such as: lameness, sudden stopping, change in attitude, reddened gums, labored breathing or excessive panting. If you notice any of these signs, stop running immediately and seek veterinary help.
10. Check your dog's paw pads and legs after each running session for skin damage, swelling or pain.
11. If you run in ice or snow, rinse your dog's feet (including the spaces between the toes and paw pads) thoroughly after each running session to make sure you've washed off the salt (and ice melter), and consider using paw protectors.
12. Do you stretch before and/or after a run? Your dog might also benefit from this. Consider learning how to appropriately stretch your dog's legs."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nantahala Hilly Half Marathon

The Nantahala Hilly Half Marathon was on our list of "must do" runs this year.  The thing that impressed both of us is that the race director was so excited about being able to put the event on in such a beautiful area. He said numerous times, "don't just come out for the race or come for the route. Come for the area, the people and the history" With a 5 hour time limit to complete the distance, he truly meant come out, spend some time checking out the area, take your time and enjoy the scenic beauty.


The name of the race is long and quite a mouthful, so we decided to shorten it to "Nantahilly, or Hilly Half"  The course was very challenging, but the trails were not technically difficult.
Approx 4500 ft total elevation change...


7.5 miles trails and 4.5 miles gravel/dirt roads.
Trail races are approx distances. The sooner you learn and understand this, the better off you'll be. Some trail races we have run in are considerably longer than stated, some shorter. Mentally you have to plan on running until you cross the finish line and try not to dwell on it. 


In the above picture, look closely and you will see two participants down the hill working their way up. This was an option on the course if you so choose to take the challenge. The option was to run through a dark tunnel filled with cold shin deep water and with the help of a rope tied to a tree, climb out and up the hill to get back on course. We skipped the challenge part :-)


Nantahala River. The word Nantahala comes from the Cherokee language and means "Land of the Noonday Sun" The river runs through a narrow and steep gorge where in some areas the sun only reaches the ground when it is directly overhead during the middle of the day.


The first 2.5 miles were flat then you start to climb. First on a short segment of road  then single track trails...


Up, up and away we went...



Kind of felt like we were all by ourselves at this point. The hill spread all the runners out... Umm, yeah, we were toward the back...


I was afraid we would have to climb to the top of the zip line tower, but we didn't have to. We did hang around long enough to watch a couple of people zip lining! 


Views and more views. As I mentioned earlier about trail runs being approximate distances, they may not be marked the best either. Most runners, including ourselves, took a wrong turn and ended up on a dirt road scratching our heads wondering which way to go next when all of a sudden the race director was driving up to us to get us back on track. Seems we went a little bit out of our way. Eventually we made it to the top and at what was supposed to be the 5 mile mark took us 2 hours to get there...


There were a couple of runners that we saw ahead of us, later they were behind us, later ahead of us, and they finished the race about 10 minutes after we did. Somehow we managed to do this without ever running past each other...



 Photo op!...


Very happy...


Cool rock bridge...


So glad to be hanging out with my best friend...


Nice single track. No rocks or roots...


The course was marked with the pink ribbons. We were told to keep the pink on our left. Oops except in this spot. This is where many of us went in the wrong direction. We went to the right with the pink ribbons on our left side... 


Winding up the run back through beautiful lush forest...


Afterward we tried out the hammocks. We didn't want to put our dirty shoes in them. They were super comfy, so we bought one to have at home...


Had some lunch at the Rivers End Restaurant.  The above and below pictures are the view from our table at the restaurant. The race started on the other side of the river...


We had fun watching people rafting...


And now on nice days we have our very own hammock to relax in, listen to the birds chirping, admire the spring blooms on the trees with views of Mount Pisgah off in the distance.  Another run on our must do list this year is to run from Mt Pisgah to our home. It will be called the "Partial Pitchall", but that is another story for another day...

Happy Running!

E & B