Friday, May 16, 2014

Furry Running Buddies.

They sniff. They bark. They poop in inconvenient places. They play with us, snuggle with us and run with us. They are our best friends, both on-trail and on-sofa. They are our training partners, our coaches and the ones who keep us going. Their natural love of running and for life motivate us to get up, get outside and get moving.

Our dogs; also known as the greatest running partners on the planet.

I see a woman jogging alone. I think, "Where's her dog?" I leave my mutts at home so that I can squeeze in a little speed-work in-between preschool drop-off and the grocery store, then feel guilty about it the whole time. Why didn’t I let them tag along? A run just isn't the same without a 4-legged companion at your side, but there are times when we choose to leave them behind, knowing there will be a sulking K9 waiting when we return, sweaty and guilty, from a solo run.

Here are some of my favorite things about running with my 4-legged family members.

They run when you run.
People. Whether they decide to go to Target, they really need to clean their house, or they have a hang-over, human running partners have been known to flake out. Will your dog ever ditch you to go buy new hand-towels at Target? Nope!

The first time I took my pup down to Dutch Gap, she bounded down the dock and flew into the water, tongue out and belly-first. Our run was put on hold; she spent the next half-hour splashing, swimming and clumsily fetching sticks from the water. I’ll never forget how I felt that day, watching as she discovered her sea legs. That kind of entertainment has no price.

I read somewhere that women who run with dogs are way less likely to be targeted by bad guys in the woods than women who run alone. I'm not sure how many would-be lady killers they interviewed for the article, but I gotta think it’s probably true. Along with protecting us from creepy weirdos in the woods, our dogs are also proficient at scaring off bears, chipmunks and beavers. Nice feature.

If you're huffing it up a big hill, they’re right there with you. They know how you feel because they are feeling it, too. They DO have four legs to work with (lucky mutts!), but still, they're on your team. Suggested team name: Fatty & Fluffy. That’ll do.

They sleep the rest of the day.
There's nothing better than the sweet silence in my house when my kiddo is taking a nap and my very hyper mutt is sprawled out on the floor (or sofa). Happy and tired after a morning on the trail, she is finally worn out. Time for a cup of coffee and a good book. My job here is done.

Naptime is serious business around here.

Like other humans, I'm occasionally tempted to skip my morning run to go shopping instead. On those mornings when Target is calling my name, I've got 2 sets of sad-puppy eyes to answer to and a decision to make. Sometimes I fly out the door as quickly as possible in order to avoid eye contact. Slacker! Other mornings, their pleading works; I lace up my running shoes and leave my shopping list at home. I've never regretted choosing the trail over the checkout line; I've got them to thank for that.


We love them, spoil them and teach them.
We run.
They love us, protect us and teach us.
Together, we fly.


-Michelle Baltz-


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Peace Out, Old Man Winter.

Mother Nature has flipped the Season switch, bidding adieu! to the wettest, most frigidist, longest, yuckiest winter in recent memory. You can count me among the thousands (possibly millions) of outdoor enthusiasts who are more than happy to kick Old Man Winter to the curb.

Here it is, folks! Bring on Summertime. You know what that means; flowers, sunshine, trips to OBX and smiling, bouncy, happy runners.



Time for bratty people everywhere to start complaining about the heat, the humidity and their frizzy hair. Now, I'm not one of those obnoxious runners who find something to whine about during every workout (As if!). However, there are a few things about running in the summer that take a little getting used to. I must whine for a nanosecond, never to whine again (unless someone forgets to put the cute little umbrella in my post-run Daiquiri).

Instead of listing my hot-weather running woes every day from now 'til September (ain't nobody got time for that), I'm just gonna throw it out there ahead of time. Here are a few friendly observations about running in the sticky, blazin' hot, ridiculously sweaty conditions otherwise known as summer in beautiful RVA.

Gosh, won't it be nice to get this out of the way?

Because we all need another thing to add to our pre-run checklist (and our shopping list).

-Water bottles.
I've tried at least 5 different hydration systems, finally settling on the Nathan hand-held variety. Its the least annoying of the bunch, but running with stuff in my hands is obnoxious. Not as obnoxious as passing out in the middle of the James due to heat exhaustion, but still.

-Snakes and other vermin.
I try not to spend a ton of time worrying about Copperheads and other snakes, but this time of year, every other root looks just like a giant Cottonmouth who might confiscate one of my legs. Other animals that cross my mind are bears (duh!), bobcats, hornets and rabid Canadian Geese.

Sweat (some of us more than others).
I get really (really) sweaty during a regular run. Crank up the heat past 80 degrees, and I've got sweat trickling into my eyes, dripping from my ponytail, down my legs and into my socks. The result: a cute little sweat-puddle-trail that I could probably use to find my way back to my car in a pinch.

-Chicks in tube tops.
So, I know the trails I run are open to the public (one of their best features, actually), but during the colder months, the only other trail-hoppers are other runners, bikers and a few squirrels. Flip the summertime switch, and you get all sorts of riff-raff to keep you company. Today, I came up behind a tube-top clad lassie, swigging a Monster energy drink and sucking on a Camel Menthol. I politely said "to your left" (proper trail lingo, yeah?), only to be ignored and eventually scowled at. Really? I could have said what I was thinking ("MOVE IT, Kat Von D!"), but I'm not sure that approach would have been any more effective.

-Pollen and Poo.
My car is covered in inch-worm poo and yellow pollen. I don't eat meat but I'm pretty sure I've inhaled/swallowed at least 3 inch worms in the past 2 weeks. I think that sums it up.

-Holy HOT!
Dude, its SO hot.