Running with Charley: Trail vs. Track

This morning’s run took us on some trails! I didn’t feel like running this morning, but I knew that Charley does better during the day if he has gotten a run in, and I was excited to gather more data using the Nike+ app for my iPod! As we were walking to the track next to the busy road by my apartment, there was a moment where the street was empty of vehicles. When we go for walks in the woods (on the days when we don’t run) we have to cross that road to get to the nature preserve, and so I always stay aware of the traffic on the road for the opportunity to cross the street. The opportunity came today, and I took it out of habit. So we took a break from running on the track to run on the roads and trails. Typically I prefer to run on the trails rather than on a track, but with the wet spring weather there are sections of the trails that are all mud. I don’t mind walking through mud, but Charley’s whole lower half get’s caked in dirt, especially when we run. Plus the slippery surface forces me be more careful and pay more attention, which slows me down. I didn’t think about how different it would be to run in the woods rather than on the track, but our mile times and my sore muscles sure showed the difference! For a distance of 3.12 miles our total time was 35min 31sec with an average mile of: 11min 23 sec.  I took the graph from my Nike+ app, which shows my pace over the course of the run. Over the course of this run, we ran on a road, a trail, and a track, and it shows on the graph (click to get a full image):

run 2_28-13

From the beginning until .5 miles we was on a road, which was not entirely flat, so a dip in the middle represents a mild hill that we had to climb. From miles .5 – 1.9 we were on the trail going up and down hills, through mud and over obstacles; our pace reflects that with ~12 minute miles. At around mile 2 we were on the track and did a half-mile loop before getting back on the road and finishing the run on the sidewalks around our apartment (the large dip reflecting a steep hill we climbed). In the end, even though our mile times dropped, I was working even harder; I can feel it even more in my sore muscles caused by the slight changes in elevation and the difficulty of running on the slippery, muddy surfaces. It was a run I can feel pretty good about, and it got me even more excited to run on the trails as the weather warms up.

Some notes on how I got Charley ready to run:
Charley and I have been together for 9 months. When I first got him, he really had no leash training whatsoever. He didn’t know his name and he didn’t want to pay attention to me at all while we were outside and there was so much other fun stuff to look at. So we first worked on getting him to know his name, to know basic commands like “sit” and “lay down”, and to pay attention to me outside. The details on teaching him these things will be for another blog post in order to keep this one concise and on topic. He still isn’t perfect walking on a leash, but he does well enough to where we can go for runs. We gradually worked up to runs by mixing in a little jogging to our walks. On these short jogs we worked on making turns and getting him to pay attention and understand my body language. Even now he still is still learning.  We are working on running past other dogs, and he still has a burst of energy at the beginning of the runs and likes to pull ahead a bit. But by getting his attention (telling him to “heal”) and giving him a little tug (if needed), he will come back to my side. Once we are ~1 mile into the run he has settled down and runs next without me needing to hang on the to the leash. With the warmer weather coming up, I know I will have to start paying more attention to how well he is doing and making sure he is not getting too warm or dehydrated, especially with the extra weight I put on him.

I found this blog article on how to run with your dog by Dr. Sophia Yin (Veterinarian and Animal Behaviorist) really helpful:
http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/running-with-your-dog-how-to-train-fido-to-run-at-your-side

Throughout my blog I will continue to add the details on how I have worked with Charley, giving my experiences on what worked and what didn’t, and the things we have learned along the way. Each day is a step in making progress towards getting Charley to be the most obedient and balanced dog that he can be, and I hope to keep this blog up to date on our current goals and the progress we make towards them.

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