My Black Lab-ish Training Buddy.

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I don’t know if I’ll be ready for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in about a month, but Wailea is in ridonculous shape. Our one year-old lab-ish rescue puppy is in the best shape of her life.

My right knee and left Achilles are banged up from our week-long trip to Zion. Ample doses of canyoneering in knee-deep river water, ascending and descending stairs carved in steep rock, sprinting serpentine down a paintball field to avoid being shot — these all require recovery beyond what fistfuls of Advils washed down with Uinta Cutthroat Pale Ales every evening can offer. But I’m not feeling like I have the luxury of time to recover, given that I only have about a month to bank some training so that I don’t keel over into some trailside pricker bushes on race day. No thank you.

So I rode yesterday. And swam and ran today. The run is the painful piece, and that’s what my knee and Achilles reminded me at the outset this morning. Wailea weighs about 70 pounds now, and she pulls on the leash like a rhino. Because neither of my legs is capable of moving in a natural way at the moment, or at least not until I’m warm, I must have looked ridiculous trying to catch my stride while being yanked along by my dog. A few nannies and homeless gents, even, gave me sideways glances as I peg-legged awkwardly around Mountain Lake Park yelling, “Heel! Heel! Heel, damnit!” My periods of yelling at the dog punctuated by periods of “ooh, ouch, ooh,” each step causing a stabbing pain in one leg, then the other. Wailea kept looking back and up at me, trying to decipher a command she could recognize somewhere in the midst of my speaking in tongues.

Not an auspicious start to a run just one month away from Alcatraz.

Within a few minutes, though, blood flow allowed my right knee to track properly and my left Achilles to loosen up. By then, we’ve managed to snake our way up through the Presidio a bit such that Wailea’s leash can come off. And that’s when the fun starts.

The Presidio Trust has done a remarkable job of making the Presidio and its 24 or 25 miles of trails very accessible while still preserving a sense of remoteness. There are periods like what is shown in the photo below when it feels like you’re running through a far off jungle —

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And there are loads of sturdy wooden stairways dug into the cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean outside the Golden Gate Bridge. Scrambling down these steps several hundred feet, encountering essentially no one along the way, with a blistering offshore wind gusting at 30 MPH stirring up menacing chop out in the Pacific, my black dog leading the way — what’s better than this?

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Not much. Add in fleeting glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge’s North Tower on the way back up from Marshall Beach, and it’s almost enough to forget the burning lungs and concrete quads.

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Of course, Wailea is in every one of these photos. She is just…there. I have friends who never quite clicked with their dogs, but that has fortunately never been an issue for me. She completes our family. And she has become, at least for the running part, my training buddy. Never complaining, always happy to run with me no matter what new trail or cliff side steps I introduce–simply thrilled to be alive and sharing that moment with me.

And I feel exactly the same way.

Thanks for reading.

7 comments

  1. Love it – love your story, the way it is written, love the photos, the scenery, and love your dog!
    We live in the East Bay and are among the lucky who know what a beautiful area you are writing about. We are also in love with our two dogs, and they definitely complete OUR family as well. Thanks for the smiles.

  2. I think a local cartoonist (the guy that does “Frazz”, if you get it in the Chronicle) is going to do that same triathlon. Or maybe he’s just doing a swim from Alcatraz…not entirely sure.

    I have a friend who does triathlons in the LA area…I’m always amazed at the people who can do such a thing. (But then again, Moo had a doctorate at 26 and was already working for NASA when I met her. So…)

  3. What a beautiful puppy and great workout buddy!! I used to workout with my roommate’s dog and she could move! This post makes me nostalgic for that dog- Nala. Aww. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Make sure you get plenty of exercise every day. You will stay youthful-looking and healthy by moving around. It is a vital part of any beauty regimen. Schedule about 20 minutes a day to be active. You can work physical activity into daily routines like walking or even vacuuming.

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