The Dirty Dog 15K is a fun but incredibly challenging race set in the beautiful and mountainous Kanawha State Forest just outside the state's capitol city. KSF is especially rugged and remote, spanning well over nine thousand acres. The trails are mostly single-track and challenging, with boulders, creek crossings and fallen tree hurdling. The best part about the race is that runners can run with their four-legged running partners off-leash. The presence of the dogs knocks the seriousness of the race down a few notches. It's hard to get uptight about running performance when the sound of a baying bloodhound is echoing through the valley, a golden retriever is sniffing your rear, and a lab is joyously splashing through each creek crossing. Dogs of all shapes and sizes come out for the race, along with their runners of all shapes and sizes. Many of the duos look amazingly alike.
The Dirty Dog 15k was written up in Runner's World Magazine as the "Best Doggy Race." The race had a record attendance year, with almost 300 runners and over 50 canines. Major kudos to Tracey and Dan Todd, race directors, who managed the throngs efficiently. Robert's Run Shop in Charleston hosted a race day eve packet pickup party which helped reduce the registration line on race morning. Volunteers directed traffic and a jamming pre-race party mix helped everyone get on site happily and easily.
|Post-race Ice Bath|
My four-legged partner, Daisy, unfortunately did not get to run this year. She was limping the morning of the race and I didn't have the heart to run her for 9.3 miles not knowing what was causing her soreness. She has a hot spot on one of her footpads, so I was hoping that is all it was. (turns out it was just that) Regardless, this was no race to take any chances. So, my husband and I were to run it without our furry friend this time.
|My Dad and Alex taking their job very seriously|
Last year I improved my first-year time by a significant amount. However, this year, even though I felt fitter, I did not believe I would be faster. A few months after the Dirty Dog 2011 my family and I moved to coastal South Carolina from our hilly West Virginia home. I knew that the lack of available hill training would affect my DD15K performance. I was prepared for that. I knew this race was going to hurt. Bad. But what I didn't realize was how much my yoga training would help my race. Yoga is no substitute for hills, but I did learn some key techniques in my Baptiste-style yoga class that improved my race and my recovery.
Here's the story:
I joined a yoga studio when I moved to Beaufort South Carolina which promotes the Baptiste style of yoga. For lack of a better way to put it, Dancing Dogs Yoga Studio teaches power yoga for athletes as part of their menu of classes. I have done yoga for almost ten years, but I have never reaped the benefits like I have in the classes at Dancing Dogs. These power yoga classes are a form of cross-training that I would recommend to any runner or triathlete. The yoga practice not only strengthens and tones muscles, but teaches body awareness and a presence that translates to everyday life in a powerful way.
|Top Dog Macey Warner|
awesome photo by Joel Wolpert, thewolpertinger.com
Shelley explains further, "True North Alignment is being true to yourself, and physically it’s bringing your body to anatomical neutral. The easiest way to think about this is to look at a skeleton hanging on hook like you see in doctor's offices. The joints naturally stack on top of one another. While your body is aligned, it is easier to access your strength potential. When your shoulders are back, core is in, it enables you to find all the power that you have. The stacking of the joints is especially important in injury prevention and it helps minimize abuse. Joints get pounded while running, but if you stay in alignment, you allow the muscles and tendons to do their job and absorb it."
In the weeks leading up to the Dirty Dog, I attended a workshop hosted by Shelley's studio and taught by Mark White, who is a Senior Baptiste Teacher and owner of Baptiste Affiliate MBody Yoga in Jacksonville, FL. The workshop was called "Creating Tadasana" and it was all about how to create balance within your body and learning True North Alignment. The workshop made so much sense to me, and I found myself reflecting on it...often...as I continued to train for the Dirty Dog race.
|The finish line...I'm in lime green|
|Dirty Dog Daisy|
Dirty Dog 2013 is already on my calendar. I will always love this race!