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October 9, 2011

The Art of Training in the Mud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you draw a line angled west by northwest from where the Columbia River Gorge splits the Cascades to the Continental Divide, you’ll hit Seeley Lake.  West by northwest is the storm track and all the rain and snow that should have fallen in the Cascades hits us. 

With Seeley being a clean shot for northwest storms, we don’t get a lot of dry days during the fall.   After arriving here, I quickly learned I was going to have to master mud.  Become one with goo.  Of course, in principle so do the dogs.  In practice, it’s natural for them.  And it does give them another tool with which they can torture me. 

As an adult, my history with mud started in the Bay Area.  The mud there was clearly mixed with some form of adhesive.  I always figured klister-wax though many friends figured white glue.   Whichever it was, the tires on the mountain bike I was using for training runs inevitably caked up with a thick layer of the stuff.   The layers of mud would then jam against the bike’s forks, freeze the tire and wheel, and bring us to an abrupt halt.  I was a very good musher.  In the midst of strings of expletives befitting a boy who’s parents both came from the Bronx, I’d stop the diatribe to tell Dawn and Tenaya in a very calm voice that they were good dogs, give them a couple of reassuring pets, and then start in again.  The cursing probably didn’t help clean off the tires, but I doubt it hurt either.  They say mud is fundamentally insensitive.  And Dawn and Tenaya quickly learned that they were good dogs and I was a nutcase. 

The mud in Seeley Lake is not the sticky goo I had to deal with in my previous life.  It is more a fine wet silt that gets everywhere.  During runs, dogs kick it up face high.  In addition to a good rain outfit protecting me from the splatter, I wear goggles.  It’s not unusual to come off of a run with raccoon marks just like those on a sunbather, only it’s from goggles and mud rather than sunglasses and a tan.    

My face is four feet off of the ground when I’m on the ATV.  The dogs’ faces and bodies are about a foot and a half off the deck.  After these runs, they inevitably have a thick coat of mud on them, head to tail, something they don’t seem to mind at all.  I’ve always been amazed that the mud really doesn’t cause any eye problems in my dogs. 

Of course, another way I get some additional mud spray is from them shaking off when I get close.  They claim they’re just waiting for me to remove their harnesses, and that’s what triggers the shake off.  I know better.  They just like to see the grimace on my face as the mud their fur had stored is jettisoned in every direction, including mine. 

Mud season has definitely arrived.  We’ve had nearly an inch of rain since the beginning of October.  Given that the average total for the month is less than two inches, we’re moving right along. 

I guess I can’t complain too much though.  I’m not a fan of mud, but I can live with it.  With the arrival of the mud, the weather has cooled off and I have all morning to run the dogs.  No longer do I have to force my tush out of bed at five or six in the morning.  I’ll take slime over a pre-dawn wake-up any day.  So I guess there’s a good side of mud as well.  But once again, it doesn’t care

   
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