Monday, March 30, 2009

Beagle on a Leash

When I was growing up my family always had a dog. Other than a brief foray into black lab territory, our dogs were always beagles.

Beagles are known for having that great aaarrrooooooo howl, an incredible sense of smell, and an insane amount of stubbornness.

Seriously, housebreaking my current dog, Charlie, took three weeks. Housebreaking a beagle, no matter which beagle, took over a year. Beagles are very smart dogs, but there is just no convincing them to do something they don’t want to do.

Because we lived in the sticks, we never bothered to leash train our beagles. We never had to walk them, we’d just open the door let them tear around the yard on their own.

This combined stubbornness and lack of training made the few occasions we had to put the beagles on a leash absolute torture. For relatively small dogs, they are very strong and no matter how hard they gag themselves, they’ll pull on the leash. We would end up towing them behind us the entire time because their little beagle noses were glued to the ground, sucking up every smell, and they didn’t want to go wherever it is we were dragging them. Our arms would ache after the walk from the constant pulling and tugging.

My brother once went on a bike ride with his girlfriend. When I asked him how it went, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “it was like dragging a beagle on a leash.”

My brother, my husband, and I are planning on riding the 65-mile Ironman at the end of April. My only goal is to keep up and not get beagle-on-a-leash status for myself.

Two weekends ago, the three of us went for a training ride.

I kept up pretty well with the boys. Of course, my husband had been fighting a cold for a week and had to keep stopping so he could blow his nose, but whatever. I held a pretty steady 17-mile-an-hour pace despite the massive wind we fought for the entire ride (it was either blowing sideways or head on).

But I made the mistake of starting the ride kind of dehydrated. And my super-power, if I have one, is to sweat faster than I can drink. These two things, combined with the wind, dried me out so much that by the end of our 15 mile trek, I was so dehydrated that blinking was painful, my lips were cracked and bleeding, and my calves were more cramps than relaxed muscle.

When I tried to get off my bike, at the corner of two very busy streets near my brother’s house, my left leg went “fuck you,” and refused to hold my weight. This would have been fine, had all my weight not been resting on that particular leg while I swung the other one over the bike frame.

This led to an AWESOME fall. I’m sure it was hilarious for passing motorists. This girl was fine riding her bike, but once she stopped on a sidewalk and had a foot on the ground, she just fell over.

I ended up with a massive bruise and scrape on my left hip, a scratch on my bicycle and a skinned knee.

My brother emailed me, congratulating on avoiding beagle-on-a-leash status and holding a good pace, and I flushed with pride, completely ignoring the next paragraph where he suggested I get some training wheels.

Then on Saturday the mister and I went for another bike ride. He planned the route and told me it would be a little bit longer than the last ride.

I wore less clothing than I had the weekend before, trying to avoid the sweating super-power problem. This was a mistake because I nearly froze to death. Fingerless gloves, lightweight riding tights, and a windbreaker were not enough to combat the chilly temperatures.

Eighteen miles into the ride, I called up to the mister, “Hey, how much longer are we going?”

“We’re at the half way point now.”

I took a moment to think this over. We rode 15 miles last week, this ride was supposed to be “a little bit longer,” we’d gone eighteen miles, and we were only about halfway. Apparently, I thought, we have different definitions of “a little bit.”

Then I exploded. I was frozen and exhausted and completely unprepared for the length of the ride. Without some sort of break, there was no way I was going to make it the rest of the ride.

I made the mister stop and buy me a sandwich. I sucked down a pop (real pop, not the diet kind). I stood under the hand-dryer in the bathroom until my legs thawed out. Then we got back on the bikes and started peddling again.

Twenty minutes later, the sugar and caffeine from the Coke metabolized and it was like someone hit the turbo boost. I felt refreshed, energized, and ready to go. Which was good because we had a four mile uphill climb ahead of us.

I made it the rest of the ride without throwing another hissy fit and I avoided beagle-on-a-leash status for another week.

Next week is our 45 mile ride. I’m hoping I can still keep up.

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