Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Enzo and Piper, Flying to Florida, and the Key West Half Marathon, Key West FL. 1/18/15

Martin, Piper, Me, Enzo, and Sidney
It has been some time since I have posted a race report.  This race report has been sitting in my draft folder for a long time.  Life does get hectic sometimes.

Recently I have been focused on a few exciting projects that have been taking up much of my time.  I decided I need to invest more into the things I love to do so I have been finding new opportunities to challenge my skills and reach for the stars. :)  I have started some new writing endeavors.  I began laying the foundation for some exciting new educational pursuits.

But the main source of my distraction for the past few months has been Piper, our new canine addition. We adopted her in November.  Adopting a dog should not have been such an overwhelming ordeal, but we had a few special issues to work through.

Piper in the foreground, Enzo in the background

Our first dog, Enzo can be very aggressive towards other dogs. He was acting slightly more civil prior to adopting Piper, so we thought we had a chance at having a second dog.  This was also the only time Sid would be home for an extended time period to help me manage two dogs, so if we wanted a second dog, we needed to do it now.

Enzo was clearly not ready.  He was much more aggressive for much longer than I expected he would be towards her.  I knew he would be bad at first but when he met Cezanne (my friend Liz's dog), he barked for 10 minutes (I timed it) and then starting to relax.  His vehement hatred of Piper lasted for almost two months. During this time, prevent attacks was our main job.

Piper came to us as a dog without a history. We picked her out a photo album of dogs scheduled to be euthanized within the next week.  The description said she was 20lbs. That was a big part of why I chose her. She seemed to fit what we were looking for since we have a small house.

 First, it did not take us long to realize that Piper was 20 lbs because she was starved (she is now over 35 lbs now).  And clearly she was NEVER EVER anyone's dog.  She did not like people. She was very fear aggressive towards people. She was an aggressive resource guarder.

I had never been more afraid of a dog in my lifetime than I was of Piper and she was living in our spare bedroom!  I had even found people (Jessica and Derek) to adopt her when they were able to.  I gave them a list of all the things she did that scared me so they would understand her needs and they could be safe. We had plans to send Piper to a foster (Cristi's) to minimize the danger in our home until the the new owners could take Piper.  But after a lot of tears, we called off the re-homing, and continued to work with Piper and Enzo, hoping we could get through this. Oh boy, did we had our hands full.  We had a wild animal in our house.  She would growl at me if I walked by her room while she was gated.  Snap at me if I tried to pet her.  Clipping her leash to her collar for walks scared both her and me at first.  Feeding her was tense.  Giving her a toy resulted in her getting possessive and aggressive.  She pitched a fit when I put a towel over her crate, growling and flailing about until I took the blanket off the crate and she wasnt even in the crate at the time!

She wanted to be nice and she had a very sweet side to her, but then she would do something reactive and dangerous with little obvious provocation.  At one point Sidney said to me, "She is really making it very hard for us to like her"… but we did like her and we just hoped life could be safe and calm again.
Martin and Piper became fast friends :)

We baby-gated our entire house and this kept everyone safe. Piper slept in her own room gated safely at night, after a week of being crated at night in the gated room.

Sid and Enzo moved into the finished basement. At one point, Sid planned to take Enzo and stay with my parents, but we knew that would just delay progress.

Piper and I lived upstairs. I tried to spend time in the same room as her as long as she seemed comfortable. I did not try to touch her,  but often if I moved to fast, she would do something that scared me (lunge, or growl, or bob and weave).  Food was trust building, but she wold sometime snap the air while we were feeding her.  She wanted us to put it down and leave.

I slept next to her crate on a love seat for a few nights. She wasnt thrilled with that.   Once she seemed ok with me there,  I decided to let her sleep out of her crate if she wanted.  I opened the door and then I was sure that first night that she was going to bite my face off while I slept… so I did not sleep at all. (But instead, she curled up on my chest and she slept on top of me and that night was a big turning point in our relationship).  

Sid and I texted each other to talk or to plan when the dogs were being moved around the house to avoid accidental confrontation. Enzo was clearly angry with me.  He refused to acknowledge me for over an month!

Early on we started doing very regimented training sessions several times per day, where we used classical and operant conditioning to help move desensitization along. All positive reward based. Controlled and timed walks around the neighborhood, then around the yard, into the house and then we sat for 5-10 minutes before separating the dogs.  Sid and I being a team helped tremendously.

Enzo loves to fly… Piper was not thrilled on her 1st flight
It took a long time to see progress since Piper had heart worms and she was on exercise restriction for the first 3 weeks she was with us.  She was pent up and frazzled. She would hump things in her room.  She knew nothing about houses but she could not leave and this made her crazy.  TVs and typing and toilets flushing scared her.  The heat coming from the ducts scared her.  I scared her.  Sid scared her. Her reflection scared her.  Enzo hated her.  She was scared of him. She did not know any words. She did not know we wanted her to know words.  She did not know how to ask us to do things for her. She had no idea that we would actually response to her if she asked us for something.  She was hard to teach anything because she was quick to snap when she was scared, frustrated or possessive and she was all those things all the time for the first week.  But we were all very patient with her and she started to trust us.

Sidney and I had this trip to Key West scheduled long before we knew we would have Piper in our lives.  This race, many years ago, was the first half marathon I ever ran.  It was 3 weeks after my last round of cancer treatment.  My husband (boyfriend then) ran side-by-side with me.  By the end of that race, I felt more like a survivor that I had felt during my entire battle with cancer.  That was January 2007.  Since then, each year we have returned to the race.

This trip marked Enzo's 4th visit to Key West since he became our dog.  We found Enzo under a bridge on 1/1/2011 homeless, very sick, and very broken.  He had night terrors and can be difficult when he is on the defense.

Piper was going to stay with my parents while we traveled to Key West with Enzo.  But spontaneously, after a few runs at the park together, Enzo had begun openly accepting Piper. (He stopped trying to attack her).  One week before our trip, we decided that we wanted to bring her along.

Apparently we are really bad at decision making. :) Enzo and Piper had not yet been left together unsupervised. We were not sure what we were getting ourselves into.  I purchased a travel baby gate and we planned to figure things out along the way.  We hoped to crate her in the plane, but later discovered the crate did not fit in the Cessna.  We were prepared to rent two separate hotel rooms if we had to.  I had tried to upgrade our hotel rooms to suites but none were available the week prior. I found a two room apartment for rent for the first night, so we started with that. 

We didn't need to separate them once on neutral territory :)
Key West is special to us because my husband is a commercially licensed pilot.  Since he is not yet officially employed as a fully time commercial pilot, each year we use this trip from New Jersey to Key West as a way for him to log some cross-country flight time.  The trip takes much much longer than a commercial flight but we can bring anything we want, including our dogs. This year, we also planned to travel with Martin. He planned to meet us in Florida, run the race with us, and then join us for the flight back home to NJ.

The Race:
First time they were loose together in a car!
Last year, I was much better prepared for the race, in the best shape of my life as far as half marathons go. This year, life was more complicated. We spent more then 2 months 100% focused on helping Piper become a member of our family.  Dog Training dogs replaced Run Training during the 60 days before this race.  As a result, the race made me incredibly nervous.  But really most people don't seem to come to Key West to run fast.  

One of the most interesting additions to this year's race were the Drones! This is the first time I experience drones on the course.  At one point, at maybe mile 2, a drone was hovering low above the runners and I could not help but think…"I wonder if getting knocked out by a drone would be a good excuse to DNF a half?"  LOL.  But I am just under 5'2" so I knew I was in this race for the duration! 

I settled in to what I felt was a comfortable pace and I was happy to see that I ran M1 in 7:12.  Oh boy if I could hold that pace would I be happy!

Actually I knew I would be thrilled if I was able to run anything under 8 minutes per mile.  I have learned a long time ago, that running really fast while well trained hurts a lot less than showing up untrained and trying to run faster than you are prepared for.  There is nothing worst than a death march and I know better that to make myself suffer like that. 

I tried to find a pace that was not going to lead to a blow up on the way back and if I was smart then maybe I could actually negative split this thing, even if I ran much slower than last year. M2 7:17

This year's course took us thought the downtown more than last years and I felt like there was more turns this year as we took the scenic route. M3 7:22

As we ran along the water, the sun was rising, the humid was high and I felt like I was starting to feel the lack of training.  I decided I needed to slow down.  I was running with a guy named John at this point and we were both sharing how woefully under prepared we were, despite us both being in fantastic shape in the fall.  He was talking about the pace being a little too fast.  I was hoping he would stay with me because the talking made me worry less about how the later miles that would pummel me. M4 7:29  

I could not ignore the fading pace. I had told John that I was really hoping for a tale wind on the way back. He laughed at my wishful thinking and I promised him it would happen.  I devised some scientific explanation about how the sun will warm up the water and by the time we hit the turn around we will have a nice wind created to blow us briskly back to the finish.  John noted that we were actually getting a head wind now.  He was right.  There was a head wind.  I told him, "See, I told you there would be a wind… it would be a tale wind except we are late! We need to hurry up!" LOL.  M5 7:29

John decided to let me go on with out him and I thanked him for the company.  I only had about 1.5 miles to go until the way back.  The slower 7:30 pace helped me feel like I was not falling apart. I hoped to have something to dig into on the way home. I decided to slow a little more just to make my life easier.  I knew it was going to be a fight on the way back so I tried to give myself a "rest" mile as if there is such a thing. M6 7:40

I started counting ladies on the way in way back and discovered I was 15th. There were some ladies in sight so I decided to try to focus on a strong second half. M7 7:21

I managed to pass one lady early in Mile 7 so that moved me to 14th, but then a woman passed both of us, crap.  I tried to go with her but the humidity was too much and my tired legs were screaming "If you want to be able to finish this, you need to slow down!" M8 7:13

There were several more ladies in sight so rather than try to chase the woman who passed me, I instead focused on the ladies I felt I could catch. I settled back down in my pace and managed to move up to 13th. M9 7:29

The course routed us over the pier this year and although it was a nice scenic touch, I personally was not a fan of running on the pier.  I felt like it was windy out there and I hate wind.  I did like that I was able to see that there were no ladies in range to catch me on the way in but I had a chance to move up a few position if I could stay solid during the last 5k. M10 7:35

As I passed two more women and had my count at 11, the last woman I passed was encouraging and cheered me on. I had done the same for her early on at the 10k turn around.  It was nice to get it back later in the race.  Once I passed her, there was simply no one chasing me and no ladies in sight for me to catch.  I was in a pocket of space and fighting humidity.  It was starting to get really hard. M11 7:34 

I felt the fade coming and the course was not helpful the final few miles contained a lot of turns and once my legs were heavy, it was hard to maintain my pace on the turns. I admit that I often looked back. I did not want to be caught, but I also did not feel I had the desire to run much faster that I was at that time.  I kept telling myself I was going save it for the final mile! LOL  M12 7:40

I actually did pick up the pace at the start of Mile 13, but the final part of the course continue more turns than any other mile.  It made this mile feel harder than I had hoped it would.  With no one on my heels and the humidity killing me I just settling in and enjoyed the finish. M13 7:43

The final stretch was nice with a large shoot lined with cheering fans.  It was so nice to see the end in sight!  

I have to say that although this was not my best performance by far, I am truly happy with how this turned out.  I faded.  I struggled.  I suffered. But I should. I did not train for this and it would completely wrong to expect to do any better than I did out there.  I was simply glad to be in a respectable time without any issues. 

I waited for Sidney who always runs just about a 1:50, almost every single year with no training at all.   As I saw him finish, the first thing he said to me before anything else is "Ok, we are coming back next year!" which is what he always says when he is done with the race. And then, right on cue, I say the next line in our yearly dialogue "And next year we are going to actually train for it!" Then we laugh and we laugh…. because we know it won't happen.  :)

We waited for Martin, who had some drama during his race… him stopping to massage a cramp at mile 11 cause the police to call an ambulance and then we started to proceed they refused to let him go, telling him to wait to be assessed by the Ambulance staff.  When 30 minutes passes and the ambulance never arrived, he was allowed to finishing his race.  This created one of most disappointing race experiences I have ever seen him have.  Martin is 70 years old and in consideration of his age, he is one the most amazing runners I know.  I wanted him to take home an age group award and he would have easily had he not been stopped.  I did write to the race director and Barbara promised to make things right for Martin. Her generosity helped to make the experience not feel do disappointing.  I hope Martin joins us again next year… Maybe next year we can all actually train for it! :)

After Key West we stayed two more day before Martin, Sidney, Enzo, Piper and me all loaded into a Cessna and took a long leisurely flight up the East Coast, getting stranded in Myrtle Beach due to bad weather for only one extra day.  

By the end of the trip Enzo and Piper no longer needed to kept separate even if we went to work.  The baby gates were removed (except the one to her bedroom).  After a week traveling together I can truly say Piper and Enzo are now family and they truly each other's best friend.   They wrestle and play non-stop.  They share bones.  They take things right from each other's mouths without any fighting, it is just what the do.  Peace is restored and Enzo's life is better for having Piper in it. Piper get to have a life now that she is with us.   Life is good.

Time: 1:38:14 (7:29 pace)
11th Female
2nd AG

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