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07 February 2012

Letter to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)

After reading over my blog post again, I decided it probably made more sense to add the whole letter. I sent this to the Governor, the mayor and police (animal control officer) of the City it happened in, the DCR, my representative in the State House, the Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, and the non-profit "Friends of the Fells" (of which I am a member). I got a response from the Chairman and Executive Director of Friends of the Fells expressing concern over the issue within 24 hours, and a few hours later I heard back from the DCR Ranger who is in charge of the area. As I said, it was great that he responded, and he was serious about addressing the issue, but we'll see if they follow through...

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To whom it may concern;

I have been running in the Middlesex Fells for about a year now, and in that time, I have watched the number of off-leash dogs increase exponentially. The problem has increased to the point where, in the last few months, when I get chased by an off-leash dog and confront its owner, I have been told numerous times that I am absolutely incorrect. "Everyone knows the Fells is an off-leash park!" "This is the first I've heard about it," or, my personal favorite -- "It's illegal for you to even confront me about this!"

Today, on a typical two-hour run on the Reservoir trail, I stopped counting off-leash dogs when I reached 30. At one point, there were two dogs sitting on one of the narrow bridges, completely blocking me from passing, with no owner(s) in sight. I had to wait until they became bored and trotted off on their own accord before I could pass, and I never did see the owner(s).

On the final stretch of my run, as I was in the Winthrop Hill area on the Skyline Trail, I saw a woman standing on the trail throwing a tennis ball far off trail for her German Sheppard to fetch and return to her. Both she and the dog saw me approaching. She took the ball from the dog and threw it down the hill (away from the trail) for the dog to fetch, and I ran by. Suddenly, just as I passed her, I heard the dog came charging out of the woods barking at me and growling while she yelled at it to stop. I kept running. Before I knew it, the dog was immediately behind me. I felt the dog nip my skin and claw at me through my shorts, then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped and ran back to the owner. I stopped, noticed the owner's (male) partner sitting on a rock typing on his phone. He said (and I can't tell you how many times I've heard it before) "Hm.. She's never done that before." I lifted my shorts and said "She just bit me -- am I bleeding?" He looked, then said, "Nah, she just jumped up on you. Just keep going."

That's exactly what I did. I don't know what I was supposed to do, but I really didn't feel like confronting a guy with a dog who just attacked me, who witnessed the whole thing and still didn't feel like he needed to even stand up to apologize. I have no doubt in my mind that if I had fallen, the dog would have bitten me somewhere other than on my butt.

When I got home and took a shower, I found a six-inch scratch where the dog did break the skin, and a tooth shaped bruise where he bit me, but didn't break the skin.

Here's my question: Why can't the DCR do its job and enforce the leash laws in the Middlesex Fells? I'm so tired of hearing that it's because of staffing shortages. The tickets alone would easily fund the position, instead, irresponsible dog owners know that the DCR doesn't care, so it breeds exactly this kind of attitude. If there were teenagers drinking in the woods, or god forbid, someone swimming in one of the reservoirs, I'm sure the DCR would be out there in a flash, but when it comes to this, nobody seems to care. I pay my state taxes, I pay my taxes in the City of Medford, but nobody wants to take care of this problem.

Over 30 off-leash dogs on a single February day on the narrow trails in the Fells. Not the Sheepfold, but the Skyline and Reservoir Trails. Nobody wants to do anything about it. At the very least, advise us (especially runners) on what kind of weapon you would prefer we carry when we run. Please, stop with all the excuses and get in there to DO YOUR JOB. There is no point in having rules if you're not going to enforce them.

Sincerely,

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I don't think I was too harsh, but I'm still waiting to see if I get back even a form letter from anyone else.. I'll keep you posted on this if anything does happen.. 

Frozen Fat-Ass, new shoes, and a dog bite!


Ok, I'm getting better, but I'm still admittedly not quite the blogger I desire to be. I'm still working on budgeting time so that I have a regular blogging schedule, but as I haven't reached that point yet, I've missed writing blog updates on three topics I wanted to touch on: The Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50k, my first runs in NB101s and finally, being jumped by a dog last weekend on the trails. Now, since I don't really want to bore anyone with an extremely long blog post, I'm reduced to touching on them all briefly.

1) The Cape Cod Fat Ass 50k. What a race! All the race reports are true, this is one hell of a race. Two rough "figure eights", with the first (smaller) loop being a five-mile run down the beach before looping back through the low dunes and hitting the aid station, before going into the longer loop. The longer loop is a short jaunt down the driveway and a sharp left into the dunes/marsh area for about six miles, then you end up back on the beach and fight the headwind for four miles straight down the beach, where you start it all over again. First, running on sand for 50k is a lot tougher on the legs than I thought it would be (silly me). Second, struggling with even the ability to run is mentally exhausting. Third, I should not have worn trail shoes. If I do it again next year, I'm going to do it in racing flats. The treads on my NB800s kept breaking up the sand, even when it was semi-packed and I was landing mid-foot. Finally, I overdressed from the start and was exhausted and drenched in sweat before I even reached the end of the first little loop, where I dropped my gloves, hat, and jacket at my car, put on a dry long-sleeved tech and ran the rest in just that. I ran the first 25k pretty well, and I think I was on course for around a six hour finish, which would have been fine, plus, I knew there were a bunch of people still behind me. As it turned out, the people behind me were running the 25k. I ran almost the entire second 25k by myself. Completely exhausted, wind-blown and sapped of all energy, finishing the race in exactly 7:00. It was certainly a personal worst, but it was a hard-earned personal worst. Overall, this was a great race -- I hated running it with my hydration, but 10 miles between water stops made it necessary. Great race, great runners, and a great RD. I think I'll do it again next year.

2) NB101s. I like them! They don't have a lot of tread compared to my NB800s, but they have a really thin rock plate that holds up well, and other than that, there's not much too them! Feather light (in my opinion), but they hold up well, and I'm getting used to the tread. One thing though -- I took them out for six on the trails in the snow -- probably 3 to 5 inches on the ground, and some trails I had to blaze, but not too much -- the shoes didn't hold up very well. I don't know what I was expecting, but they did slip more than I expected. When I took them out again last weekend on the mostly dry trails, I put in a good 12 miles, and really liked the way they felt, I found myself feeling surprisingly confident in them, despite the fact I was still getting over the fear that their sheer minimalism was going to break me. I think I'm a convert -- stay tuned for more..

3) Finally, I was jumped by a dog this weekend on the trails. Despite the fact that the State Park has a "strict" (read: unenforced) policy that all dogs must be leashed, I saw over 30 dogs off-leash on the single-track trails before one finally decided I was too close to its owners and jumped up on me, literally nipping me in the ass and scratching my leg. It made me angry, but it made me even angrier that I couldn't confront the owner, who wasn't even bothered to stand up and stop sending his text once the dog ran back to him. I may be crazy, but I'm not going to confront a guy with a dog that has ALREADY bitten me once, right? Long story short, the scratch broke the skin, the bite did not, and I emailed the head ranger of the state agency that oversees the parks, and received a reply promising greater enforcement that did make me feel a little better... If only I hadn't heard it all before!

The day after the dog jumped me, I also ran my first road race in a while, The Lynn Stew Chase 15k. I ran just under a nine-minute pace, putting me about 45 seconds slower than the last time I ran it (two years ago). I felt great running the first half, I even pulled a couple of 8:20 miles before the big hill, but then I crashed during the second half, and was forced into a run-walk style that, unfortunately, I have become all too familiar with, so I can surge for 20 seconds, and fast walk for 30 seconds, over and over and over again. It's mentally exhausting, but hey.. it gets me across the finish line. I really do need to work on it, but hey, it makes my road races look really funny when I transfer the data over from my Garmin..



I'll post another update soon..