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November 10, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt it the first time a couple of weeks ago.  It was only a three mile run along a dirt road, actually the same route as the slow team is doing, but I had dropped more than two minutes off of my best time.  More to the point, I felt good, certainly better than when I ran my previous best time.  I had felt the same way during a Nordic Track workout---I had crossed the half hour point at a solid pace and, as near as I could tell, only boredom would make me quit. 

The same week that my conditioning really started kicking in, the conditioning of the A-Team also started showing itself.  After a set of runs that were taking longer each time---I’m definitely running Siberians---we dropped three and a half minutes off of this season’s best time for running our seven mile route.  It wasn’t just a good time for this year, it’s been three years since we ran that route that fast and at that time all my eleven year olds were eight, my nine year olds were six, and Prudhoe and Kennicott were just three.

The next two dogs’ runs, both seven milers, were mediocre, but then we changed routes and extended the run to 9.4 miles and 530’ gross vertical.  Just before we turned around, Jake---he was leading with Shoshone---was looking back like, “When is this going to end?” Throughout his life, Jake has never balked at running---letting wildlife distract him when he got tired, that’s another story.  I knew he had the mileage to do the long route, so I was concerned that something was wrong.  As it ended up, he ran fine all the way back and I was quite pleased with our overall time and speed.  Perhaps old age and a little wisdom are getting in there with his work ethic.

The pair of runs after the 9.4 miler were just seven milers, but the team has been pulling the ATV through soft, wet, snow.  The first run was good and the second one was outstanding.  With that hard work, the dogs just weren’t getting tired. 

Runners, even old slow folks like me, feel a profound satisfaction when we find that we have a true forever pace.  I ran the three miles on the dirt road faster than my forever pace, but not much.  A week or so later, I set the treadmill at a 1% grade, the speed at 5.8 mph---I’m still a little embarrassed by the slowness---and took off  to infinity.  I did 3.5 miles that way, and was only a little tired. 

The dogs and I seem to be in the same zone.  Actually, there’s a sensibility to this in that we are, arguably, the same age.  Using the formula most books on dogs have---yes, they present a table but even a Caltech biologist could figure out what the formula is, let alone a Caltech physicist---and accounting a little for the fact that Siberians are not little dogs, Prudhoe is 42, Shoshone is 56, Lolo is 58 and Jake is 67.  That gives a mean age of 56, within spitting distance of my nearly 58 years.  None of us is as fast as we used to be, not even Prudhoe, but we’re still hanging in there. 

And that’s what we really are as we all prepare for the trip from Willow to Nome, a bunch of middle-aged characters.  The good news is that my ability to work through all the different trials I’ll encounter is better by virtue of my being middle aged.  The bad news is my body and those of my dogs are all approaching sixty.  Of course, tell that to Diana Nyad.  Which gets back to the good news, the nearly sixty year old body is accompanied by a nearly sixty year old mind.  Training everybody smartly will be critical to making it.  And, it looks like we’ve all made a good start.  

   
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