Death of a Trail Runner



dudley running

By Anthony Corriveau

(Editor’s note: This beautifully written blog post first ran on March 4, 2016 in Anthony Corriveau’s blog Running Down, Anthony and his wife, Shannon Johnstone graciously allowed me to publish it here)

We had to put down our dog Dudley Dooright today. He was 11 years old. Dudley was my running partner.

You may have assumed that my running partner was my wife Shannon, the exceptional runner that she is. But Shannon and I are never in sync. I love mornings but she hates them. She has her best runs at night around the time I cannot keep my eyes open, let alone run. She might lag behind on a technical trail, but when she does 20 mile runs in Umstead I’m struggling to finish two miles on aching knees.

In fact, I have never been a social runner. The reason I started running originally was to get away from people. I discovered that running on trails alone was my happy place, the only thing that helped with frequent bouts of depression. But it wasn’t simply the endorphins produced from running.

Running on roads is just rote exercise. A procedure defined by simple equations of stride length and cadence, of VO2 Max and glycogen consumption. But running a single track trail as fast as you can is something else entirely: Intense focus on every root and rock, trying to maintain momentum around the next switchback, through the stretch of ankle deep mud, down and up a gully and then lifting your shoulder just in time to barely miss that tree. There are no thoughts of mortgages or dentist appointments or what the hell you are going to do with your life. Only thoughts of how many steps to take before you jump that log.

I got Dudley as a puppy in 2005. He was obviously a Golden Retriever, though I often refused to acknowledge this. This is because he was a reject from a breeder who dumped him in a parking lot, leaving him to die with a congenital defect. Dog breeders and the demand for “purebred” dogs is one of the main reasons the shelters are overflowing with animals who will never find a home. But I digress.

Shannon and I eventually had a pack of 4 dogs, and we would often take three of them running on the single track trail around the lake near our house (The 4th dog Lula was more into sunbathing than running). We are those obnoxious people who let their dogs run off leash, but we almost never ran into anyone else out there, and the unlikely event someone might be bothered seemed a small price to pay for the sheer happiness of three dogs.

Jorge and Jefferey seemed to mostly enjoy finding disgusting things out in the woods to eat, or roll in, or both. We would often have to call those two away from whatever distraction they found to keep them moving. But Dudley was different. He loved the trail like I did, and just wanted to run. It was a roller coaster ride that he didn’t want to stop. He would run up and down hills or around in circles through the trees while the rest of the pack dilly-dallied. He didn’t really care where we were going, as long is he was moving.

Around 2008, I started to invest more of my time and attention to running. When I figured out how to run more than 15 miles a week without hurting my knees, I ran as much as I could, with my favorite route an 8 miler around the lake. Since the other dogs lacked the stamina and interest, I would only take Dooright with me.
We had a special connection that I cannot explain. Almost always he was there ten feet in front of me, setting the pace. When I couldn’t keep up, sometimes he would stop and look back at me, “What are you waiting for? Come on!”. Or he would run a wide arc through the trees to allow me to catch up.

Dudley knew the trails better than I did, and had a perfect map in his head. Often he would jump off the trail into a swamp or make a hard left and disappear over a hill. Stupidly, I would stop and call for him. But it never failed that he would reappear on the trail in front of me and give the that look, “What? Let’s go!”. On hot days, he would get tired on the way back, and struggle to keep up. So he would cheat and take short cuts to stay in front of me.
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His desire to always be in front made him great at racing 5Ks. His laser like focus gave him an edge over other dogs. Of the 12 dog friendly races we entered, Dooright came out top dog in 9 of them.

Around 2012 both Dudley and I slowed down. My knees started to bother me again, and his hips got weak. When we woke in the morning, we would both hesitate before going down the stairs, knowing it was going to hurt. We still tried to hit the trail together, but he couldn’t go as far, and would be stiff and sore afterward. But it was always worth it.

A few weeks ago, Dudley momentarily collapsed while chasing a ball. After many trips to the vet, he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. The tumors in his organs would grow and burst, causing him to bleed internally. They robbed him of all his energy and he could no longer run. Even walking was a struggle.

There was no treatment available that provided any hope. So we just tried to give him as many good days as we could. On Thursday we drove Dudley and the other 2 dogs out to a local trail for a walk. Dudley jumped out of the van and trotted to the trailhead, as fast as we had seen him move in several days.

It was mid-afternoon and we had the woods to ourselves. He managed to walk a half mile, trudging slowly forward with all of his effort. But that was all he had in him, and he just stopped on the trail. We let him rest a while, and then leisurely headed back. He would walk for a hundred feet and then stop and rest. The cancer was tearing his insides up. His stomach was bloated, and is spine and hips protruded from withering muscle.

Seeing him struggle like this was terrible, and Shannon and I decided that it was finally time to let him go. As we neared the car, Dudley stopped and dug a shallow hole and laid down in the middle of the trail, in the shade of large tree.

His nose twitched left and right, detecting distant scents in the breeze blowing in his face. Occasionally his ears perked up when he saw a bird or squirrel or runner going by in the distance.

“Come on Dudley, let’s go home.” I tried encouraging him to follow us to the car. But maybe for the first time ever, he didn’t seem inclined to follow me. He just looked back peacefully. I imagined him saying “I think I’ll stay here on the trail. This time, go on without me.”

I sat on a log next to him. A barrier broke inside me and the sadness of losing him poured into and mixed with the happiness of all those long afternoons of running the trails with him. I started crying, deeply. Haven’t really stopped yet as of this writing. It took us a couple days to summon the courage, but we let him go this morning.

I suppose a eulogy for a dog could be considered banal, or you might call this one maudlin. I would accept that.

After all, it’s just a dog. It’s just trails in the woods. It’s just a guy and his dog running as fast as they can to nowhere in particular. It’s just exactly that and nothing else. Pure joy.

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Dream trip to Mount Everest turns into a nightmare for Raleigh trekker

Ron Wahula of Raleigh enjoyed  a dream trip to Mount Everest Base Camp

Ron Wahula of Raleigh enjoyed a dream trip to Mount Everest Base Camp

By Teri Saylor (photos courtesy of Ron Wahula)

On April 28, Ron Wahula of Raleigh, N.C. is exhausted and ready to be back at home after a dream trip to Mount Everest he had been planning for a year, turned into a nightmare when an earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter Scale demolished parts of Nepal and launched an avalanche of rocks, snow, and debris down the mountain, burying parts of the Base Camp and sending trekkers scurrying for cover.

Ron, whose trekking group was below the main area of destruction, escaped the full force of the avalanche but was shaken up. His wife, Carol Wahula, reported his trekking group was too close for comfort, and no one was hurt.

“They felt the earthquake, heard the avalanche, and saw the cloud of snow coming and felt the wind it generated,” she reported in a Facebook message. “They took cover and luckily they were covered only by a couple of inches of snow.”

 

Mount Everest's scenic beauty was transformed into a scene of destruction after an earthquake sent an avalanche barreling down the mountain.

Mount Everest’s scenic beauty was transformed into a scene of destruction after an earthquake sent an avalanche barreling down the mountain.

Ron is the race director for the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and director of the Raleigh Galloway Marathon Training Program. He has set his sights on adventure and endurance sports in recent years. In 2013, he completed the Umstead 100 Endurance Run, and set his sights on achieving his dream to climb to Base Camp on Mount Everest.

He signed on for a 21-day REI-sponsored trek and left Raleigh on April 13, bound for Nepal.

He had trained for an entire year, spending hours biking, hiking with a heavy backpack, and last summer he attempted the Pike’s Peak marathon, but was denied a finish when he missed a cut-off by minutes.

After arriving in Kathmandu, Wahula started posting photos on his Facebook page, along with enthusiastic commentary about the area’s beauty.  His travelogue included photos of himself standing before Mount Everest’s majestic summit.

On Saturday, April 25, those pictures turned tragic.  Gray, foggy pictures of snow and destruction replaced his earlier photos of clear, blue skies. The once festive, colorful tent city was covered over with snow, ice and gravel.

The scenery looks bleak at Mount Everest after an earthquake caused an avalanche on April 25

The scenery looks bleak at Mount Everest after an earthquake caused an avalanche on April 25

 

Ron posted his experience on Facebook:

“Saturday, April 25th, we departed Gorek Shep. elevation 17,000 + , headed for our goal of Everest Base Camp at 11:30 a.m.,” he wrote. “Approx. 15 minutes into our 2-1/2 hour trek, a massive earthquake occurred. It lasted about 1 minute and as soon as it ended, a huge white and grey cloud that looked like a tidal wave was headed right for us though the valley. Our Sherpas told us to hit the ground. The avalanche lasted 4 or 5 minutes. When it stopped we were covered with only 3 or 4 inches of snow. We were very lucky. Our entire group is well and safe.”

In a text message on April 28, Ron said his group had just finished their third day of a five-day hike back to Lukla, the starting and ending point for Mount Everest trekkers. He described a surreal scene of destruction.

“Lots of damaged buildings and the trail is damaged with rock falls, and helicopters are constantly in the air rendering aid to victims,” he wrote. “From Lukla, we fly to Kathmandu.”

According to Carol Wahula, Ron has lost about 15 pounds during his adventure and is most looking forward to getting a hot shower and eating a hot fudge sundae.

Runners to take on the Umstead ultra marathon this weekend in Raleigh

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Nearly 300 runners will brave cold temperatures and the threat of frozen precipitation when the gun sounds at dawn on Saturday, March 28 signaling the start of the 31st Umstead 100 Endurance Run at Umstead State Park in Raleigh.

This year’s 100-mile ultra-marathon features a field of 101 women and 190 men from 31 states, the District of Columbia and New South Wales, Australia.

The race starts at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 28 at the Camp Lapahio headquarters in the heart of Umstead Park and ends at the same location at noon on Sunday, March 29. Runners will attempt to run the 100-mile looped course in 30 hours or less. Last year, the male winner was John Dennis, 33 of Maryland, who completed the race in 13:41:07. The female winner was Liza Howard, 42, of Texas, who completed the race in 15:07:39.

The Umstead Ultra Marathon traces its humble beginnings back to 1974 as a training run before ultra marathons had grown in popularity. Two Raleigh runners – Blake Norwood and Tom Newnam had registered for the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run in Silverton, Co. and needed a long training run. Intending to run 150 miles, the duo obtained permission from the Umstead Park rangers to stay in the park and run for two nights, with their friend, Jerry Dudek serving as their crew. But after they completed 100 miles in less than 24 hours, they called it a day.

Later that summer, Norwood, Newnam and Dudek hatched a plan to develop a 100-mile ultra-marathon at Umstead and made good on that plan in spring 1975.

And every year since, with Norwood serving as race director, they have made good on their promise to conduct a quality, runner-oriented event, to encourage ultra-running in North Carolina, especially the Triangle area, and to produce a race that offers first-time hundred milers a reasonable chance of success.

Norwood died last October, leaving the Umstead Ultra-Marathon’s reins with Rhonda Hampton, who assumed the race director duties after the 2014 race.

Fast facts about the 2015 Umstead 100 Endurance Run:

Total number of runners: 291

Number of runners in their 70s: 9 – including the race’s oldest runner: Walt Esser, 76 of Cary, N.C.

Number of runners in their 20s: 9 – including the race’s youngest runner: Josh Belin, 23 of Potomac Falls, Va.

Number of women: 101

Number of men: 190

Number of North Carolinians: 116

Married couples:

Fernando Puente 61 and Carol Puente, 59 of Raleigh

Bill Squier 72 and Sally Squier, 72 of Raleigh

Darris Blackford, 51, and Starshine Blackford, 39, of Columbus, Ohio

Shannon Johnstone, 41 and Anthony Corriveau, 44 of Cary, N.C.

Other notable runners:

  • Fred Dummar, 46, will be running in Afghanistan while his wife Susan Dummar, 50, of Fayetteville, runs in Umstead. Fred is a commander in the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command – Special Operations Advisory Group.
  • Dave Cockman, 57 of Cary will be running in preparation for a 620-mile across North Carolina starting on April 4 in Murhpy, N.C.
  • Grant Maughan, 50, New South Wales, Australia, an elite runner who finished in second place in the grueling 135-mile Badwater Ultra Marathon in Death Valley, Calif. last July in 24:43:08, despite temperatures that soared into the 90s.
  • Hal Koerner, 39 of Ashland, Ore. Who won the 2012 Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run in Silverton, Co. in 24:50
  • Mark Manz, 29, of Durham, N.C. who finished in third place at Umstead in 2012.

The View from Sally’s Asylum

The 2010 Umstead 100-mile Endurance Run has come and gone. But the remnants and memories endure.  On one weekend each year, near the first weekend of April (read: April FOOL’s Day), when the full moon shines and illuminates the forest of Umstead Park, people arrive from far and wide, attired in all kinds of get-ups, with support crews, suitcases, supplies, and all sorts of good luck charms, and they proceed to run, walk and even crawl over 100 miles. Up hills, down slopes, through cool weather, heat, sun, dark, and even heat, chasing the elusive dream of covering a century of miles in 24 hours.

Every complete loop goes by Sally’s Asylum, an aid station extraordinaire, proving that asylums are not just for crazy people anymore.

So who in the world would go out into the woods and spend the whole weekend running?


Happy Camper


Disco Man


Trail Blazer


Girl in a Hurry


Tammy: No need to say more


Cruise Photo


Ready for a long hike in the woods


Crowd Support


Girlfriend Support Crew


A hug before the next round


“I can’t talk now; I’m in the middle of a 100-mile endurance race”


Cheeseburger in Paradise


This fellow’s packed for his long journey; Everything but the kitchen sink and the dog.


Jonesin for a sponsorship – really!


Catching some refill action


Dirt Diva: Catra Corbett goes out for more trail


Safari Man


In the witness protection program, she’s disguised as an ultra marathoner


Dude!  Get Down Tonight!


Number 268 – Feelin’ great!


Number 268 – Still Feelin’ Great!


Number 268 – Not So Great!


This guy had about 89 packages of Endurolyte tablets and wanted them all stuffed into the pockets of his shorts…clever way to get a butt massage. Miss Congeniality is happy to oblige.


Tammy in Paradise


Hey Baby!


The whole world’s a ballet stage


Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up


Guido the Duck


We’re all quackers for Guido


Catra loves her some tattoo


She didn’t need a headlamp for night running, as she glows in the dark


Stick a fork in him

Mercury Rising Makes Bella a Pleased Poodle Puppy

Last winter, Bella, a dainty poodle who lives in Cary was clearly not happy about taking a walk on a frosty winter morning, even though she was quite the fashion plate in her layered look: A soft pink lined jacket over a fuschia sweater, all of which matched the cute pink ribbon in her hair and her lovely pink leash.  She was hardly in the mood to walk the red carpet, however.

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 No, I am not pleased, thank you very much.  I know I look terribly chic in my sweater and coat with matching hair ribbon and leash, but REALLY!  It’s 37 degrees out here and I would rather be in bed eating doggy bon bons.  I am cold and want to go home.

Now it is spring, and it feels like summer, perfect poodle weather, and Bella is more than pleased and happy on her walk.

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Ahhh…I feel sooooo much better. The temperature is 80 now, much more civilized for taking a morning stroll.  Don’t get me wrong. I love my trendy outfit, but being naked on a warm day is much nicer.

One Week in March

March came in like the King of the Jungle.  The March 2 landscape was awash in frosty white layers of snow. By March 7, the temps had soared to 80 degrees, a miraculous swing, and around town our collective mood soared with the mercury.                                            car14               car24

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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