Friday, December 5, 2014

Ashenfelter 8k, Glen Ridge NJ, 11/27/14

I wasn't sure if I even would be able to attend this race. I knew I actually did not want to. I have a lot of things going on at home that have shifted my focus from running. What? Yes, it is true.  Right now, I still run every day, but running high mileage is not happening.

On October 27, Sidney and I decided to pulled a dog, we named her Piper, from a list of shelter dogs scheduled to be euthanized within the next week or so. She was the first dog on the list that had no donations pledged to help with her rescue costs meaning she was more likely to not be rescued. We knew Enzo has a real problem with dogs he meets in parks, but he had become much more relaxed (for him) around some dogs familiar to him.  We thought we had a chance to save a new pup and give her a good life.  I had been encouraged by many people who claim to have experience with dogs. I was told that dogs treat dogs that are part of the family differently than dogs that are not part of the family. I was told that it often starts of challenging but then the dogs find a way to be ok. I was told Enzo needs time around a dogs daily to come around and this can work.  Sid is planning to home often for weeks and this was the only time we would have with almost 24 hour supervision so this was the time to try to get a second dog.

The last month has been one of the most stressful experiences of my life and I have been through some very stressful experiences.  Enzo is not accepting of her inside the house.  He will tolerate her on a walk.  Inside the house he is not happy and will get snappy with her. The constant tension in our home is oppressive. We have dedicated any time we can spare from other things to work the dogs together and separately or rotate the dogs so that neither is isolated too long.  Not only was Enzo completely unreceptive to a new housemate, it turned out that Piper initially was unfriendly and aggressive, at times, towards people. Piper spent her first 5 days, in her bedroom, trying to be curious about us, but then growling and sometimes snapping at us for doing things like offering her food or toys, for touching her, trying to clip the leash on her to walk her, for looking at her, for talking to her.  Enzo would go crazy if he caught a glimpse of her through the gate, lunging and barking relentlessly and trying to get at her. He was not redirectable. So I had one dog that wanted to bite me whenever I looked at her… and another dog that wanted bite her just for being present.  This is hard.

It took 5 days of simply sitting in the same room as Piper, waiting for her to come to me when she was ready. Piper was terrified of any sounds related to daily life. Typing on my phone or computer scared her, the heat being blowing from the vents scared her.  Showers, toilets flushing, the dishwasher, opening doors, etc… all scared her.  Enzo looked sick and withdrawn.  He spent little time with me choosing to retreat to the basement or stay outside. He was louder and more obnoxious at the park when we did run with him.  When together, Sid and I split up and I spent more time with Piper, trying to teach her a language to use, and basic manners for living inside a house.  Sid kept Enzo company and made sure he felt loved.  For the first 5 days, I was so incredibly stressed I lost 5 lbs.  But then she turn a corner and suddenly realized that we were good people and she was safe with us. Now I have no fear at all that she will snap at me and she is no longer nervous around people at all. I can take food from her mouth if I need to, pick her up, handle her, train her, play with her, nap with her… She is a great dog.

Today it has been over 3 weeks since we picked up Piper on 11/14 after she was pulled and boarded at a Vet's where she was spayed and treated for other conditions like heart worms. Enzo and Piper still cannot be in the same room.  I am not actually sure it is possible for Enzo to accept her more than this ever. We are still trying to help them along with very systematic methods of behavior modification (classical, operant, counter conditioning, systematic desensitization, etc… we have pheromone diffusers in the house, we allow them together until Enzo can't deal with it.  The time is getting long that they are together.  We are now up to 30 minutes, on leashes, in the house, which a huge improvement from where they started.  However, this is not going to work long term.  We are speaking with Vets, Trainers, etc, to get expert advice on whether this is ever likely to work.  We were told to give this more time.  At some point we will have to realize that Piper and Enzo will be better off NOT living together unless Enzo proves otherwise.  This is the most heartbreaking situation I have experience. No one in our house is happy, except the dogs when they are not together. There is nothing to suggest that this is going to get any better right now.  Many people are rooting for Piper and Enzo to get along and work it out.  The reality here is that we are going to have to decide how long we live in this situation.  My heart is broken.

I showed up at the A8k only because I needed to the race to improve my USA-TF Grand Prix score card.  To have a chance to move up in the standing I needed to better one of my Category II 700 pt scores.  The person who I was in most direct competition with was Aya.  Aya has had the most amazing year.  I have been watching her results on Facebook and in person at races. Week after week she has been getting faster and faster.  I have had a great set of races myself this year but I have not raced as much as Aya. She was getting faster and I was getting distracted and distressed. I really wasn't sure whether I could hold her off any more.

The fact that I have hardly been training really made feel very insecure. I felt exhausted and run down. I had lost weight and it was likely muscle and hydration.  I was not eating well.  So of the three things that all athletes need to do to optimize performance (eat well, sleep well, and train well), I was doing None well. I was really worried that this 8k would be one of the worst runs I have had in a long time.

I left the house later than I should. I drove around way too long to find parking. I collected my bib and T-shirt. I left the shirt on they gym floor with my Clifton Team's stuff, used the bathroom, and lined up. I didn't have a chance to warm up and I didn't really care.

I just wanted this to be over so I could rush home and then go to work.  It was Thanksgiving and even thought I didn't HAVE to work, I try to go in because not many people can get there.  I am a therapist on an inpatient psychiatric unit when I am not coaching, training, or racing.  Usually the patients who are in a psych hospital on a major holiday are the most in need of attention. It did not surprise me to find that during normal visiting hours 0 visitors were present.  The patients were actually happy to see me, which is not always the case.

I line up where it seems like I would be close to the start, but this is a large race and many people filed in in front of me. It took about 10 seconds for me to cross the starting line.  The first mile was crowded and I felt like I was often stuck behind groups of people.  I do my best to get a good start. M 6:41

During the second mile, Jim O. is just a bit behind me. I catch a glimpse of Aya creeping up on me in my peripheral.  Jim, being a lover of the sport, my teammate, and the person who encouraged me to attend this race by reminding that I needed this race to have a shot to move up the standings, notices Aya making a move.  I hear him say something like "On Your Left, Shannon" and Aya was right there.  I like Aya. As she cruises up next to me, we can still see her husband and I tell her… "Ok, we have 3 miles to catch Karl. I think we can do it." I really hoped we could push each other to do just that.  Karl had different plans.  M2 6:46

As we hit a descent, I decide I need to push a little to see if I can pull away from Aya. I feel like I am already fighting way too hard at this point, but I have to keep trying until I can't lift my legs. Everything hurts.  I can actually feel a side-stitch, something I have not felt in years.  I get a little distance on Aya and all I need to do is hold it… for the next few miles.  LOL!   I try to not look back to see where she is, but for the remainder of the race she was my only concern.  I could hear her breathing behind me the entire way so I knew she was always right there on my heels.  M3 6:45

For the next two miles, in my mind, no one else was there in the race with us. I love races like this. I know the course. I have it run this race many times. There was a hill coming up about 4.5 miles after the gradual incline from 3.5 to 4.5. I settled in during mile this section so that I could finish stronger.  I was over dressed so during this mile I threw my gloves and my top layer T-shirt on the ground next to a sign so I could remember where they fell.  M4 6:50

I was able to get up that final hill and dig for a small kick on the way in.  I was working as hard as I could to stay steady.  I was suffering more than I have suffered in a race in along time. I knew all of this was related to my falling off training while I try to bring peace back to my home.  I could hear Aya reeling me in and I was very aware of what I needed to do to hold my position. A nearby runner decides to take me under his wing. I appreciate his encouragement, but I really didn't need to run the last .3 miles with someone telling me I needed to try harder.  I utter between breaths, "You go on ahead... don't worry about me...  I'm ok," but he just kept next to me, telling me to try harder.  I had already felt a twinge in my calf and was concerned I might pull something if I forced a kick I had not prepared my body to sustain. I was running as fast as I felt I could sustain safely.  I tried to focus on listening for Aya and doing what I needed to do to hold off her.  Last. 97  6:35.

I finish. I thank that guy who did attempt to help me and then allowed me to cross the line before him.  I turned around and saw Aya right behind me. 2 seconds behind me.  I truly felt like Aya and I were a great team out there. We really ran our butts off!  I tell her, next year, we need to work together to run even faster than we can run trying to race each other! :)  She pointed out that next year we will actually be in different age groups so we wouldn't even need to be racing head to head any more!

As I went to pick up my shirt and gloves, a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, her father and her dog were walking by.  She asked me "Are you finished running?" I said, "Oh, Yes I am!"  She asked, "How far did you run today?" I said "Oh boy… Today I ran too far!"  She then asked, "If you had to run Too Far today, how do you know when you are done?"

I laughed and told her she was a very smart girl.  I explained "Well, I felt like I was done running at  mile 4, but I still had more to run until I got to the finish line where I could stop." Then, I asked her "Did you run today too?"  She laughed and said "Oh No Way!"  I told her she should run the One Mile next year.  He father looked at me like I was crazy.  She then shared that that she was really really excited to get home because a lot of people were coming over to have turkey at her house.  I told her to have a great day. I then walked across the street to see the results, hurried to get home to check on the Sidney and the dogs and then I rushed off to work.

Time: 33:46
Place 18th Female