November 28, 2007


After spending a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family and never leaving the house by car (I love holidays like that), I joined a small group of Swampers Friday to mark another set of new trails at Boyette. My trail building expertise has expanded greatly the past few years, but this was a great opportunity to add "planning a trail" to my quiver.

The yellow lines are the newest trails in the northeast corner of the park: Pandemonium across the top and Sidewinder down the right side. The red trails are what we marked. I was awed by the beauty of this tract. Hilly and shaded by pines and oaks, the ground is covered with ferns. The layout of the hills and gullies will allow for some sustained climbs and downhills. It looks like it will add 3-4 miles of trail when finished. They're working out the logistics to get a couple of excavators out there Christmas week to rough-cut the corridor, then we'll go in and finish the trail by hand. I know a lot of people decry trails built by machine, but the extensive bench cutting required for this trail would take months. With this plan, we'll be riding it in January. Sounds like a good plan and I'm hoping to take Christmas week off so I can pitch in and learn even more.

I think my Mad Max post generated the most comments ever on my blog. It's great to see so many dog lovers out there! Max is integrating into the household quite nicely, even though he thinks our cats exist solely for his entertainment. We had him neutered last week and despite wearing a lampshade all week, he still managed to rip out the stitches in 5 days. We also learned that he has a very sensitive stomach, which is totally opposite the iron-clad digestive tract Fontana has. A couple of raw Turkey necks for Thanksgiving resulted in projectile diarrhea and a trip to the emergency clinic Saturday. He was back to his lunatic self by Sunday afternoon.

Max's endurance training will resume this weekend. It's tough to get to trails during the week, so I'm thinking of dusting off the Rollerblades or even *gasp* running to get him some weekday exercise.

Hopefully all this exercise will be good for Fontana too. All the loaves of banana bread and bacon stolen off of grills at races have gone to his midsection and he is officially fat. He's on a strict dog food-only diet and will no longer be allowed to roam at races. Please accept my apologies if you were a victim of this little thief. He spent his early life scavenging for food to survive and I think the scavenger instinct will be with him forever.

If you see me, DO NOT FEED ME! No matter how charming or starved I look, I need my svelte figure back to keep up with Mad Max.

On the training front, I have officially lost all my fitness. I've started commuting to work a couple of days a week and am back in the gym. I start throwing the big weights next week. Hopefully I'll have a 12 hour race to get ready for in Florida in February. If not, I might have to get into some XC roundy-rounds before enduro season kicks in.

November 11, 2007

Mad Max

Reddick passed the final exam. He made a few newbie mistakes, but showed a lot of promise.

After we'd decided that he'd make a good trail dog but before we'd finished Saturday's ride, Lauren's daughter called and told us the owner had been located. His name was Max, which he readily answered to. I called them after the ride and quizzed them a bit more. It was the owner.

I resisted the urge to lecture them about things like why he had no collar/ID/chip, why he wasn't fixed, why they took 4 days to come forward and decided the positive approach was best if I wanted to keep this dog. I told the girl that we really enjoyed having him around, what he could do on trails and that we'd decided we'd have kept him had nobody claimed him.

We were really bummed on the way home, but knew we'd done the right thing and the dog was going back to its family. We discussed calling the local rescue group to adopt a Weim or going to the shelter and looking around. As cool as this particular dog was, we'd seen how cool it would be (and how easy our evenings would be) if Fontana had a buddy to occupy his time.

The girl's father (the actual owner) called a couple of hours later and basically offered me the dog. He said he travels a lot, has been looking for a new home for him and thought that ours would be a good one. He wanted to stop by, obviously to make sure we were worthy, but then Max would be ours.

He didn't make it until this afternoon. I felt really bad for the guy because he was obviously really attached to Max, but realized this was the best thing for the dog. I went out of my way multiple times to tell him not to do this if he really didn't want to. In the end he gave us all his stuff, thanked us and left.

Meet Max. He'd come say hi but he's really whooped from the weekend. :)

November 09, 2007

Name that dog

Fontana and I were out for our evening walk Tuesday night when this guy barreled into our lives. He had no collar or tags and was just wild. In the process of trying to get him to our house, I took Fontana's collar and leash, figuring Fontana would just follow along. Instead, the stressed-out Fontana took off. I was about to just let the dog go when a neighbor offered to keep it for the night and try to find its owner the next day.

She did a great job, plastering the neighborhood with "found dog" signs and taking him to a vet to scan for a microchip (there was none). I did my part on the phones, registering him with Animal Services, contacting rescue groups and scanning the local classifieds. I found a local Weimaraner group and let them know I had him so they could spread the word. My neighbor, who is used to little lap dogs, had her hands full with this hound and was ready to take him to Animal Services. I didn't want that yet, so I offered to take him for the night, hoping another day would yield some results.

Fast forward to today. The wildman has calmed down. He was obviously wigged out from being lost/dumped. He and Fontana are already best buddies and they do a great job of wearing each other out with no intervention on my part. He's fine around our cats. He's well-socialized, knows basic commands and listens when off-leash. Nobody has come forward to claim him. He's looking like a keeper. The final exam will be this weekend when we'll see if he has what it takes to be a trail dog.

We couldn't keep calling him "hey you" or "puppy". He needed a name. Keeping with the tradition of naming our dogs something relevant to the events around them coming into our lives, Lauren though of "Derrick", which is an alteration of the town name my beloved Razorback park was in (Reddick).

I thought about all the trail names at Razorback: Grannie's Revenge, Miller's Mile, Big Gulp, Rollercoaster, Tree Slalom, Longest Mile, Clay Climb, Hero Hills, Dempsey's Doozie. "Miller" or "Dempsey" were the only possibilities. Nah. I started calling him Derrick and he picked right up on it.

Now the consensus among our family and people we've talked to is "Reddick" is better. It's more unique and doesn't sound so dorky.

He's not our dog yet. We have to wait a couple of weeks to give the owner a chance to come forward, but if nobody has stepped up to claim a dog that they probably paid a lot of money for (he obviously came from a professional breeder) by now, they probably aren't going to.

So, what do you think? Derrick or Reddick? Have any better ideas? Post your comments and let me know!

November 05, 2007

Funeral for a friend

The rain cleared out. The temperatures dropped to "comfortable". The sky was blue as blue can be. The trails were in the best shape I've seen them in years.

The crowds were bigger than any race

Our compound for the weekend

This is Florida?????

Soaking in the view

Hanging with my favorite peeps at my favorite overlook

The Saturday night farewell party was a raucous, fitting tribute to what's been called "the best race course in the Southeast", lasting into the wee hours of the morning. Sunday morning we woke to the discovery that the place is truely magical. Bikes grow on trees.

Around noon Sunday, we gathered for a final "parade lap". A group of 30, including many of the best riders in the state, headed out for one final lap at a casual pace. It was the group ride you dream about, where you never had to worry about the rider in front of you making that technical section. When we hit the Big Gulp section of Miller's Mile, many riders took the right turn up the toughest climb at Razorback. Others took the left turn bailout, but the gauntlet had been thrown. I turned right, followed by Greg Derosa. We danced up that climb like it was choreographed. That was the defining moment of a final lap that can only be described with one word: Magical.

I've gotta give a huge shout-out to Dave Berger at Gone Riding for single-handedly building the best race course in the Southeast. Many, many riders around here will never forget what you have done for this sport. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing that you're not "twice bitten, thrice shy" and find another piece of land that will bring back the glory of Razorback.