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Triathlete Blog

Off The Leash

By August 6, 2009July 9th, 2015No Comments

Friday night we took a trip to the dog park. Yes, it’s true, Chris and I lead a very exciting life in which we consider Friday night dog parking a damn good time. Little did we know that there was some type of Chihuahua gathering. That’s right, count them FIVE Chihuahuas made up the 17 dogs at the dog park (and there you were thinking we were the only duds at the park on a Friday night, turns out having a dog is like having a kid, it propels your social life to exciting new levels – hence, dog park Friday night which may I add is better than a Redneck Friday Night but that’s a different story for a different blog).

Boss quickly joins the other dogs and the other dog owners start mingling. Someone should have brought wine. It was a glorious night and all glorious nights go better with wine. But alas all I saw in the beverage department was a few scattered plastic bowls on the ground with dogs sloppily lapping up water.

Boss begins playing with Ellie, also Chihuahua. This was after he spent about 10 minutes getting his canine ass handed to him by Penny, the 4-pound Chihuahua. She held her own and on Boss’ behalf may I just say this was totally embarrassing. Add insult to injury when Lemmy the Italian Greyhound began incessantly chasing Boss around and humping him. Nonstop violation. So bad we had to separate them.

Anyways, Ellie’s owner asked us if we heard about Petco’s Chihuahua Races. Realize you could only drop a question like this at the dog park without someone looking at you like you are totally nuts. Realize also that…wait a minute…did someone just say race? As in….racing? Like go as fast as you can just because you can? I’m all ears. I love to race. Do tell.

If you have some freetime (and you do because you’re reading this blog), you need to Google ‘Petco Chihuahua Races’ and click on the You Tube video. Don’t drink anything while watching it or it will end up sprayed all over your computer screen. For those that prefer the verbal picture, imagine a race venue set up in a parking lot. There is a holding pen (think horse racing) where one owner holds their Chihuahua. The dog must then bolt down its lane (imagine a 100 meter straightaway on a running track) when the pen is opened. The lane is 39 feet long. If there is significance to that distance, do enlighten me. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how many yards that is so don’t expect that I’ll know it’s something like 4 meters which means something in dogracingspeak.

When I got home from the dog park, I did some investigation. There is a Chihuahua race in each region. 300 chihuahuas can pre-register (that’s right, pre-register) to participate in one of the 10 heats in select cities around the nation. The winner of each heat moves on to the semi-final round. Then a final round. Then finally is declared…(ready for this)…

Regional Champion

I did some recon. Last year’s Chicagoland region champion covered the 39 feet in 1.9 seconds. I don’t know what that translates to in human speed but…I’m guessing that’s pretty fast. Let’s call it a 3:59 human-paced mile. DAMN! Told you. And they don’t even wear racing flats. It gets better. The website not only had the name of this regional champion but also a profile picture and training tips.

There was an entire link dedicated to training tips. For a dog race. That lasts less than 2 seconds. How’s that for overcomplication of a very simple thing?

(is a triathlete is behind this whole thing…?)

Now, being a coach, I knew what to do. No training tips necessary. Quickly, I devised a training plan with individualized workouts to help deliver Boss to his A-race: one Chihuahua regional championship. The training block was being put together in pieces in my head. First we need to test Boss’ heart rate zones. Then strap a power meter on to his paws. Then, extrapolate the data to understand his pace at V02max levels of effort and then….

Wait a minute. Know what I just realized? The race is in one week. Scrap the planning, hold off on testing. We’re going for the reverse taper method here. Cram as much training into one week as possible and hope that it gives Boss the illusion that he is prepared.

But first things first. Before the training I must register. Of course I registered Boss! Besides, it was free. The prize is a trip to New York City (including a Jet Blue Pet Carrier Pass!) to compete in the national championship. SOMEONE in this household should be competing, right? It’s been years since the household has turned out a national champion. IT IS TIME!

Once registered, we commenced the training plan. I told Chris we don’t have a moment to lose. I thought about it and realized that Boss will run very fast when motivated. I could chase him with a flaming stick or….food. Boss will do anything for people food. We don’t give him people food but when it drops on the floor, he could be upstairs sleeping and the moment it hits the ground he’s on it. Usually he grabs it up and takes it to a nearby rug, drops it on the ground and realizes, after all, that people food is not so good. Then I have to pick up a spinach leaf or a tomato. But the other day I dropped a banana slice on the ground and he ate it. All of it. Which leads me to one conclusion:

Boss will work for bananas.

We eyeballed 39 feet, Chris holding Boss at one end and me at another end holding a banana slice. The cue was “ready, set, GO” and I shouted “come here Boss” while waving a banana slice like a fool. Sure enough Boss went monkey shit about the banana and bolted towards me. I looked at Boss, looked at Chris and said “we may have a winner here.”

Training continued throughout the week. Emily, the girl next door, took Boss to the retention area and they did steep hill repeats. The other day we went back to the dog park when it was 85 degrees with 85 percent humidity and we did crash training in heat acclimation. He’s been on a strict diet of kibble and water to achieve his goal race weight: 9.2 pounds. And, if that wasn’t enough, we are retrofitting his paws with the most aerodynamic fur possible. It’s costing us thousands but….we’ll do anything to win.

The other day I got a registration reminder via email. Please review the safety considerations:

Your dog must be on a leash at all times, except during the race.
Chihuahua pools will be provided to help keep your champion cool!
Stay hydrated (both Chihuahua and parents!).
Shaded & cool areas will be available, but don’t forget your sunscreen!
The race will go on, rain or shine.
PETCO expects all racers to have current vaccinations.

I have no idea what a Chihuahua pool is but if Boss is anything like Chris or myself, he best stay out of it because while he can run he probably can’t swim. And can someone please give me proof the apocalypse is coming by confirming there is such a thing as doggie sunscreen? What about rain. Will they shorten the course? Will they cancel the Chihuahua pool swim? Should I cover Boss with a plastic bag so he stays dry before the event? And what’s with the leash law? Can’t the dog be free? Don’t you know that putting 300 raging Chihuahuas in a 10 lane x 39 foot area on leashes is a sure way to create rabid leash aggression? And, most importantly, is this Champion Chip timed? Marshalled? Sanctioned? Ordained by the pope himself?

Right now Boss is resting. It’s Wednesday, a typical training day, and like Kara Goucher, he awakes, eats, trains, sleeps, awakes, eats, trains. Kara just won the Chicago half marathon (and beat all the boys) which makes me think that modeling Boss’ training after a champion is a good plan. I’m about to go wake Boss and we’re going to run crazy laps in the field. I’ve got a bunch of bananas and I’m bringing my downloadable Garmin stop watch.

All this training and…you bet I’m taking Boss to the race on Saturday. And one thing is certain. This event will be off the leash. (I have to interject here that for the entire weekend Chris blatantly overused the saying “off the leash”, everything we talked about was off the leash or off the chain. I have no idea where he picked up this phrase but when we went for a walk with his parents the other night and he asked them if something was off the leash I had to tell him to just stop right there). Boss clearly won’t be off the leash (until the race begins) but I might be. Come on, it’s a chihuahua race! I expect to be so off the leash that I might find myself doing some crazy laps around the Petco parking lot. But I’ll try to contain myself. Because I don’t want Boss to get a penalized for my unvaccinated shenanigans. Nor do I want him to get so distracted that he has a DNF (I really want to be the supportive race parent but honestly if Boss DNFs a 39 foot race I’m going to have to tell him to buck up and get over his bad self).

I told Boss to write out his race plan. I thought he made the rookie mistake of going into a race by winging it but then I noticed something on the car window yesterday. It was a bunch of nose prints. And when I looked closely – I realized it was his race plan. I tried to translate it but I can’t read nose print hieroglyphics. But I’m willing to call in a pet psychic for that.

Saturday morning we need to be there by 9 am or he forfeits his spot. I told Boss that 90 percent of success is just showing up. And the other 10 percent? Will require a banana slice and a balls out sprint for 39 feet. Get your paws ready, Boss. Saturday we’re bringing home hardware. You do whatever it takes to run like hell. And when it starts to hurt just tell yourself you can do anything for 1.9 seconds. It runs in the family.