Sunday, June 22, 2008

Front Page!!

Me and Simba made the front page of the Journal News!

Here is a link, unfortunately, the website does not have the action shot of me and Simba running.

Doggy Duathlon not just a walk in the park

Mike Dougherty
The Journal News

Javier Gomez already knows he can't possibly keep up with the competition.

And that fur will be flying.

Gomez is anchoring the leash for his four-legged running companion - Simba, a chow/border collie mix - as both train for the first Doggy Duathlon World Championship, to be run in conjunction with the New York City Triathlon on July 20. They hope to go stroke for stroke and stride for stride with 25 other entrants.

"I've done a number of triathlons and my wife is very supportive, but triathlons were kind of like my thing," said Gomez, a Somers resident who works as an IT audit manager. "Simba runs with me all the time, so I thought it would be cool to do a race with her. All of a sudden, this is a big deal. Everybody in the family knows about the race. It's a big to-do."

Vincent Morrow knows the feeling.

Nobody made much of a fuss when the Bedford resident entered past competitions. But the level of interest went up the moment he was accepted to race with Z, a confident vizsla who's on the Doggy Duathlon Web site sporting a finisher's medal from a past New York City Triathlon.

"There will be 10 to 15 people we know down there for the race," said Morrow, a fund wholesaler at Federated Investors who's never enjoyed that kind of support. "It makes you realize the dog has a good life."

Maybe some compassionate soul will throw a biscuit to the upright competitors.

But there's no reason to beg.

Triathlon organizers attempt to add something unique to the race each year, so they came up with what they affectionately call the "Doggy Du."

"New Yorkers are passionate about dogs and plants," race director John Korrs said. "Plants can't run, so I asked if dogs can swim. We had to bag the cycling because we couldn't figure out how to keep the dogs on a bike."

It's going to be tough enough keeping them on track with so many fire hydrants to visit.

Getting the dogs into the Hudson for the 1,500-meter swim could be the biggest challenge. It's not like they are unaccustomed to the water, but the addition of race conditions and river currents makes this a completely new experience.

"Simba is used to chasing a ball into the water," Gomez said. "One day I put on my wetsuit and jumped in with her, and she was like, 'What the hell are you doing?' I still have to work out the details of how I'm going to swim with a leash."

How about the doggy paddle?

Morrow is hoping to find a set of stairs to ease Z into the competition.

"He's not a jumper," he said. "We haven't done any lake training yet. When it's hot out, he walks over to the pool and goes for a nice swim. He goes in circles, gets out, shakes off, then lies on the patio and suns himself.

"We should all come back as our dogs."

Each dog is getting a custom-made life vest. And the current will help them get down the river between 99th and 72nd streets in a relatively short period of time.

"I don't think anyone enjoys the concept of jumping into the Hudson," Morrow said.

There is a transition area where the competitors finish the swim, complete with orange fire hydrants in case nature calls. Water bowls with be at the ready along the course. Each dog also will undergo a series of veterinary checks during the race to ensure the safety of the animals.

It seems nobody really cares if the humans are running around with their tongues dragging.

Once the running shoes are laced up and the physical is complete, the competitors will head up 72nd Street and into Central Park where they'll complete a 10-kilometer run. It shouldn't be a big deal for either dog.

"We run three times a week," Gomez said. "Simba trained with me for a marathon I did early on, and can run up to 20 miles. Then she wants to play fetch, which is what kills me. I'm ready for a nap and she brings me the ball."

But he always plays along.

"Simba is a daddy's girl," Gomez's wife, Retno, said. "She can't wait for Javier to get home. And keeping her entertained is a job and a half."

It's no different for Z, who runs frequently with Morrow.

"There's been a little grief from the college friends I usually run with," he said. "Not too much. They all know the dog is probably a better athlete than the rest of us. My wife, Erin, did the San Diego Marathon a couple weeks ago, and she'll do Westchester's triathlon at the end of the summer. So between the two of us, he gets plenty of running in."

Nobody knows whether it's going to be a competitive race.

"We told all of the owners they're just going along for the ride so the dog doesn't get lost," Korrs said. "It's all in fun."

Still, there's always the potential for a quick race in the park.

"Normally, she runs on my left side the whole time," Gomez said. "But if there's a squirrel up front, she'll be dragging me along."

A good-looking Doberman might have the opposite effect.

Since the owners are both competitive triathletes, it won't be easy to coast across the finish line if there are dogs to pass with a trophy on the line.

"We'll see," Morrow said. "I just don't want to embarrass my dog. If he decides he wants to run faster, he can pull me along. If he decides he's all right watching the others in front of him, that's fine, too."


thisiswhyihatenewyork said...

"We had to bag the cycling because we couldn't figure out how to keep the dogs on a bike."

oh no! have you not seen a springer arm? check i run my husky on mine all the time, it's fantastic! she can't run in front or in back and leaves her plenty of leeway for trotting or pulling.

Philip LaVoie said...

ha! awesome! way to go team javier-simba! ;)