We’ve had a busy trail race season this year. Between half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons, it’s been a challenge to make brain space for little else other than running logistics and training. Sadly, Bella wasn’t able to come along and crew any of the major races so far due to dog restrictions, as well as the fact that Pat and I have both run all of our races together. As bookends on each side of the busy race schedule, we signed up for two fun 5ks with Bella. The last race official of the season for me was the Rocky Dog Trail Run 5k at the GoPro Mountain games in Vail, Colorado. It was refreshing to have a shorter, fun run as the last race of the season. I wouldn’t have to deal with a running pack, gels, hydration, salt tabs, or chaffing. And best of all, Bella, Pat and I could all work as a team.
The GoPro Mountain Games
The Vail GoPro Mountain Games are a three-day-long celebration that kicks off every June. Numerous competitions include everything from dock dogs, to white water kayaking, slacklining, trail running, bouldering, to mountain biking. In addition to athletic events, adventure-loving people from all over the country gather to celebrate a mountain lifestyle with movie screenings, live music, and art. The event is dog-friendly, and dogs of every shape and size can be found at the Games.
Rocky Dog 5K
This is our second year running the Rocky Dog 5k. Last year, I was the third woman overall, and Pat won his age group, even though he slowed down to stay with Bella and I. I learned a few valuable lessons last year, which included not starting too far back in the pack at the start line. Trying to pass groups of tightly packed people and dogs connected by leashes was a nightmare last year, and it cost me some time! We also faced a few extra challenges this year, including a hefty sinus infection on my part, and irritated front paw pads on Bella’s part (she had dug a hole with something sharp in it a week before). Luckily, Bella’s paws healed relatively fast and she was able to run without boots or vet wrap. I knew I would just have to deal. Additionally, Pat and I had just completed the “Dirty 30,” 50k ultra marathon the weekend before and weren’t feeling very fresh, and it was still about 80 degrees in Vail by race time at 6 PM.
All factors considered, we decided before that race that we would run as a team, just as we did last year. If Bella struggled in the heat as she usually does, we would just have to slow down and go at her pace. If one of us wasn’t feeling it, we would still stick together and cross the finish line as a family. This is the only race of the year where Pat and I run together. Pat would be the “rabbit” and run just slightly ahead of Bella and I, and hopefully Bella would feel fast and want to pull me as she did during skijoring over the winter.
At the start line, we stacked up just behind the first row of runners. The announcer explained the course as “you go up, and then you go down!” The course was slightly different from last year, but we knew it would similar and there would definitely still be a climb. I’m stronger climbing than on downhills, so I knew I’d have to play to my strengths and give it everything I had for the first half.
When the start was called out (there was no gun, so as not to startle the dogs), Bella shot off like a bullet. Pat weaved between runners up ahead, while calling to Bella. She followed right behind him without skipping a beat. We plowed up the hairpin turns on the ski trail, and Bella pulled like a Siberian Huskey in her harness. At the aid stations, we dumped cups of water on her cooling vest, and allowed her to run through a few streams along the course. I’m usually a little hesitant when running down hills on trail courses, but we flew down the mountain. I didn’t have a choice, because Bella was pulling me so hard! About a quarter mile to the finish, Bella was spent. She slowed down considerably, and fell behind me. We called her and tried to get her energy up, but we knew we had to ease up slightly for her. Right at the finish, another woman passed us. Even so, it was the fastest 5k time I’ve had in several years!
Race Day Gear Picks
- Ruffwear Omnijor Harness– We’ve trained Bella to pull ahead in this pulling-specific harness when skijoring and on leashed training runs. It doesn’t restrict her breathing when working hard. We noticed that several of the top finishers also used these same harnesses with their dogs as well.
- Ruffwear Roamer Leash- We have the Ruffwear Omnijor Hipbelt and Towline for skiing, but like using the Roamer with the Omnijor Harness for running. Even the long length Roamer isn’t quite as long as the towline, which we like for better control around other people and dogs.
- Ruffwear Cooling Vest- This was a must for the strong mountain sun and soaring summer temperatures. We refreshed the vest with water at the aid stations during the race, and along Gore Creek while visiting vendor tents.
- Ruffwear Knot-A-Collar- Low profile, which was especially nice with all of the gear she was already using for this event.
Awards and Recovery
During awards, we learned that I had won my age group, and Pat still placed third in his age group despite slowing down for Bella and I. Once again, we earned two medals! Bella wasn’t thrilled about sitting on the Yeti cooler, but we still managed to snap a few victory shots. After the ceremony, Bella proudly wore her medals through Vail Village, but mostly seemed to enjoy all of the attention and pets from friendly strangers.
The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely hike in Vail with friends and family. For once, we didn’t have a goal or objective, other than to simply enjoy our surroundings and turn around whenever we wanted. Bella enjoyed some unstructured time with her best canine friend, Maxine.
Pat still has the Never Summer 100k ultra marathon at the end of July. For that race, Bella will be able to come along to crew for the weekend. As for me, I’m hoping to run a 14,000′ peak by late summer with Bella. It’s been a great race season for me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion than my win with Bella and Pat at the Rocky Dog 5k this year!
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