Sunday, March 20, 2016

Two Years with my Sweet Little Dog

On the evening of March 20, 2014 I stopped at Kenosha Pass to let the dog I was adopting have a chance to relieve herself. We had left the Foothills Shelter in Golden around 6 PM, Vicki had been on the floor of the passenger seat in my truck. She didn't seem particularly frightened, more like apathetic. She didn't look at me unless I spoke to her. She let me touch her, but didn't seem to either dislike or enjoy it.

Vicki on Kenosha on the way home

I was worried that I may have made a poor decision. I hadn't been looking for another dog with baggage. This time I was going to get a fun-loving, unafraid, non-aggressive, easy buddy dog. I wanted a herding dog. I was thinking of maybe a heeler that had been born on a ranch but just hadn't turned out to be a great herder. I was checking ranch-country pet shelters and breed-specific rescue organizations. But also there are pet-finder sites, and Mara (Vicki's slave name) popped up often.

Turns out, the people at the Foothills Shelter were working hard to find homes for their animals. Vicki's sad little face was on all the relevant pet-finder sites. Foothills stood out as an organization that was really doing a good job. My questions were answered quickly and completely.

So it all seemed right, except that this dog I'd gone to meet was too scared of me to let me touch her unless I had a biscuit in my hand. These good people gave me a chance to back out on adopting her, and they promised that I could bring her back if it didn't work out. I looked at this scared little dog and decided she deserved a chance. Might not be the easiest for me, but she at least should have the chance to be in my home for a while and see if she can feel like it's her home.

Vicki on Kenosha on the way home

Here's my little girl on her first morning in my house. The rawhide bone and toy she refused to acknowledge are on the floor. She watched me warily for the first several days. When I gave her a treat I could touch her briefly before she slipped away to eat it. If she had been adopted by a woman it might have been an easier transition. I know now that men are often seen as threatening to her but women rarely.

Slowly she started to loosen up a little around me. She would let me touch her head. After a few more days of feeding her I could reach down and scratch her chest. But always this touching happened when all four of her feet were on the ground. Sometimes she would suddenly bolt away.

One day after a couple weeks, we were in my back yard after having gone for a short hike. I was sitting on the ground talking to her and petting her head. Retaining eye contact the entire time, she slowly laid over and rolled onto her back, for the first time inviting me to scratch her chest and belly. We had a good long belly rub.

At some point around the same time, I realized that she actually does have a tail. Her tail was docked, so she has only a short stubby one. One day I said something to her and there it was, a stubby little tail popped up and wagged around. She had been keeping it tucked down the whole time she'd been with me.

Rainbow Trail

There were always setbacks. The fear in her will always be there. Even as there were more belly rubs and tail-wiggling, every once in a while something will spook her and for a time her eyes will go wild with fear. I learned to keep an eye on her body language, and to help her react more confidently to things that come up. I learned that she cannot tolerate being held and kept from moving. I learned the hard way not to grasp her collar and hold on.

She was completely indifferent to toys and play, like tug-of-war or fetching a ball. I would give her a plush toy and she would just look at it and then at me. But at some point, probably more than 6 months after she came to me, she started being interested in toys. At first she just carried them around, now she excitedly tears into them as soon as I give her one. Fetch isn't a big thing for her, but sometimes she'll play along. She loves tug-of-war now, with lots of fake growling and being swung around off the ground.

West Maroon Pass Trail

About a year ago she made a leap. She became a whole level more confident and able to relate to people other than me. Much of that is a credit to friends of mine and hers who worked really hard to earn her trust. My friend Nate crouched down and spoke to her and let her sniff his hand for almost a year on a nearly daily basis. And one day, she stepped two steps closer and let him put a hand on her head. After that, Nate was OK. After Nate was OK, more of the people she sees often could be trusted to be close enough to pet her.

Fresh snow Salida

She and I have bonded very tightly. She is very important to me, a member of my family. I love her deeply. People who know us know how devoted we are to each other. She looks to me for protection. She wants to go where I'm going without being called or leashed. She sleeps with me, and every night spends about a minute carefully licking my face before we both settle in to sleep. I love to see her tiny little tail pop up and wiggle, see her excitement over toys and playing.

She's really easy, other than the occasional piece of clothing or personal object that she chews. She was a little over a year old when I picked her up from the shelter. She had been pregnant, her teats and mammory glands were still enlarged. For a herding dog of her age, she is amazingly calm and attentive. She's an old soul. I never need to raise my voice. She never runs off unless I fail to control something that scares her.

I can't imagine life without my little dog. These two years have only been the beginning of a long, close friendship.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tailwind Nutrition

For 2016 I have been selected to be a Tailwind Trailblazer! I'm honored to be an ambassador for this product that has done so much to enable my success. What is it?

Very simply it is Endurance Fuel.
How did I come to be a Tailwind zealot?

Nutrition and Hydration is one of the key areas that an endurance athlete needs to master in order to be successful. As a cyclist, I've been pushing my limits for nearly 15 years now. When I entered my first Leadville 100 in 2005, I had been riding big all-day rides but I was still a total novice. I was experimenting and learning with training, recovery, race day tactics, and nutrition/hydration.

Nutrition was a problem for me. Friends would often use plain food like peanut butter and jelly or burritos successfully, but for me that kind of food would sit in my stomach and do more harm than good. I tried some popular sport nutrition products with a certain amount of success. But almost without exception, the philosophy behind those products included the strong assertion that you need to have a source of protein in addition to carbohydrates and electrolytes.

I believed this, and there was science to back it up. But all the sources of protein I tried made me feel lousy. Soy protein was terrible for me, and through my experiments using it during big 8+ hour efforts I learned that my body hates soya in general. So then I tried powdered rice protein. Fail. Eggs cooked and rolled in a tortilla or a mini croissant. Better, but still something I would eat that would set me back until I could finish digesting it.

In the summer of 2012 I was riding in the Durango Dirty Century. It happened that Tailwind was being offered at the aid stations. I filled a bottle and went on my way. The DDC is a huge effort (one that proved to be beyond me that year), and my body was stressed. That bottle of Tailwind tasted great, and while I was drinking it I felt good. When it was gone and I went back to whatever it was I was using then, I missed it. I filed that information away.

Later in 2012 I signed up for a Solo spot at the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. As I started to ramp up my training in early winter I decided to try a new nutrition/hydration strategy based on a product I had sampled at Durango Dirty Century. I went to the website and read about the product. A little way down the page I came to a section about protein. Here's how it started:

"We researched it. We tested it. We asked experts about it, so you don’t have to. Protein during exercise doesn’t improve endurance, but it does correlate with GI distress."

Holy cow! There it is! Permission to skip the protein, with science to back it up! My experience completely confirmed what I was reading. My most successful endurance achievements to date had happened on days when I (guiltily) skipped the protein. Now I could see that protein had been costing my body during big efforts. My gut tried to break it down into something useful, but the chemistry isn't there. It doesn't get broken down into anything useful, and it takes energy and water for your body to try.

Tailwind Nutrition was offering a deal where if you bought a fairly large lot of product and then named an event that you had signed up for, Tailwind would refund your money if the product let you down. It was a  pretty big buy, but I felt like the refund deal would help me out if it didn't work. And the philosophy behind the product spoke to me. So I took the risk and ordered a bunch of it.

Old Pueblo went really well for me, and I used Tailwind exclusively. Well, full disclosure: I had a Trader Joe's carrot cake cookie at midnight. But it sat in my stomach for the next lap!

That was it, I was officially a Tailwind athlete. I went on in 2013 to have probably my strongest season ever as a 49-year-old. Now, 4 years later Tailwind is a core part of my training and racing. My body loves it. Back in the bad old days I had to carry so many different things to support my nutrition. Among other things, I always had a little film can of sea salt crystals, because no electrolyte source I ever found before Tailwind was enough, especially on a hot day.

So now I'm a Trailblazer. You'll hear me going on about Tailwind on this blog and on social media. Have questions, or would like a sample? Let me know.