It's Saturday! Chihuahua Race day. And, friends, this was serious. So serious that standing in line, the line of over 200 chihuahuas, I was starting to feel underprepared. Everyone looked so fit. Everyone had their game face on. And everyone looked fast, sleeker and more ready to win than Boss.
We were feeling a little pre-race anxiety. Breathe.
At first I wasn’t sure the race would go off. It poured rain this morning. But I realized that it was up to Boss to make adversity his advantage. Remember Boss, I told you that 90 percent of success is just showing up. Today will be a race of attrition. You will outlast everyone else because you made peace with the rain.
Boss pays me a monthly fee for advice like that.
After a pre-race breakfast of kibbles and water, Boss looked ready. We pulled up to the shopping center and were greeted with a long line. It felt just like any other race morning. Get ready to wait to race.
The line was restless with the antsy barks and yips of Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas of all sizes, colors, mixes and shapes lined up to take their chance at becoming the next national champion.
Except this guy. He obviously didn’t get the memo that today was race day for Chihuahuas only.
Look at this line! It extended down the shopping center until over 240 chihuahuas lined up with their owners to take on this race. One guy said he drove down from Kenosha for this race. That’s 100 miles away. There was a lot of barking, a lot of dog carrying, and some racers succumbed to the pre-race jitters by doing a lot of poo. But not to worry. Staff was handing out little poop bags.
What surprised me most is that Boss gets a little huffy and yippy around other dogs. Especially when on his leash. But in this crowd – it’s as if he knew. This is my tribe. These are my people. We are all Chihuahuas here. Not a nip, bark or surge came out of Boss. He was in his natural habitat.
It took about 45 minutes to get through the line. While waiting, we scoped out the competition. It was nervewracking! And, honestly, I was a little scared. I mean, look at these people! Actually, just look at this shirt:
That’s right, we’re talking former national champions here. If you think that adults take triathlon too seriously, you should have seen this race. Not only did we have the former national champion in this race but her two offspring.
In fact, many were wearing t-shirts in support of their Chihuahua. If we were properly dressed we would have been wearing shirts that read TEAM BOSS.
We weren't and so we were feeling totally underdressed.
Walking around I realized this event is off the leash! Everyone was dressed in team kits, some had special containers with secret recipe dog treats, some had not one but TWO squeaky toys to distract in had, others brought an entire gaggle of kids waving foam noodles (finally I found out the purpose of those damn foam noodles you see all over the pool, you tie a pink streamer to it for your 8-year old son wearing a pink foam crown to wave like mad while shouting the name TINKERBELL).
That kid’s gonna have problems in a few years.
It wasn’t just their cheering sections. It was their equipment! Why does it seem like everyone has better equipment than us. Some came in strollers, crates, wagons. Others came dressed in the finest in doggy couture. And look at this! A dog stroller with a sunroof. You can see the envy in Boss’ eyes.
Naturally Boss looked around at all of this and thought one thing to himself:
YIPE! (that's dogspeak for OH CRAP!)
Sensing this, we felt it was best to separate Boss from the chaos so he could focus and get in his zone. Look alive, Boss. LOOK ALIVE! It’s almost race time. Get in your zone and focus on the task at hand. Racing is all about rhythm and cadence. Wait a minute. Right advice, wrong species. Racing is all about getting across the line. Believe in yourself Boss. You will cross the line. There is no DNF in Waterstraat. And you are a Waterstraat! Besides, Chris said if you DNF we can’t take you home. He’ll put you up for a Chihuahua adoption. Big things. We’re expecting big things from you, little dog!
We finished the pep talk just in time. Finally we made it to the front of the line and got Boss’ papers. And his timing chip. Wait, no timing chip? Has this course been measured? Is it draft legal? No? So what is the draft zone? Can you measure it out for me with a little piece of string just in case I cannot accurately visualize it? What about drug testing. Are all these dogs legal with vaccinations? How deep do awards go?
HERE! Boss was assigned to Pack 12, got his goodie bag (oh and it was about as good as most triathlons except missing the lip balm). Then all we had to do was wait.
Of course Boss got a little nervous. After waiting about 30 minutes for the different heats to go off he finally made a trip to the pet relief area. I was worried he wouldn’t get his pre-race poo as I know from personal experience that nothing good happens when you go into a running event without emptying the pooper first.
Next we previewed the course. Boss carefully observed the strategy of his competition.
Then we talked his strategy. Being the coach, I talked with the team. The team being Boss, Chris and neighbor girl (Boss' best friend Emily; you should know that at Thanksgiving time she made a turkey with 5 feathers in her 1st grade class. The feathers were to represent things she was thankful for. Who got the first feather? Boss.)
Strategy was simple: noise. Lots of it. Sure, others were using food, squeaky toys, some even used live Chihuahua playmates (is this legal?) but our plan was all about making the most noise to get Boss' so he'd make a beeline straight for Chris and Emily.
The call comes across the loud speaker: pack 12 report to the holding pen. It's race time! Being no stranger to competition, I push myself to the front of the line and enter first into the pen. The staff asks us to pull a number for our starting corral and I think about it momentarily, see the number 5 and pull it. Strategy! If we put Boss on the end, chances are he would run off to the side and never make it. If we put him in the middle, he’ll get so scared by the other dogs that he’ll run straight to Chris and Emily.
Boss and I stepped up to the starting gate and eyed up the competition. They looked good. But not as good as Boss. There was an eerie calm about Boss and I could tell he was in his zone. While the guy two dogs down was trying to wave a piece of bacon in his dog's face while shouting BACON!BACON! to get it riled up, Boss was totally zen.
Race time. Chris and Emily are shouting at the other end and I give Boss one last peek at them. I put him down in the starting pen and in a ready, set, go, he’s off!
WE HAVE A WINNER!
Boss was declared the winner of Pack 12! All of the weeks – ok who am I kidding – days of arduous training, heat acclimation, kibble restriction, tapering, massaging, ice baths and only the best coach money could buy (me!) prepared Boss to achieve his victory.
Next stop: the semi-finals! Another 30 minute wait and we were up again. This time around, it wasn’t a bunch of amateurs. No, these were the dogs that bolted at the start and ran across the line. The pressure, THE PRESSURE! Potential champions. With blood on their teeth and the smell of bacon at their noise. Every owner was waving a toy, a piece of food – they all had fancy strategies when all we had was NOISE! He was like an amateur in the pro wave. Please don’t swim over me. Believe, Boss. You can do it! Just be yourself. It’s the same race, Boss. Do what you know. Go straight to the line! We reviewed our plan and then the race began.
After a false start (one of the national champion’s offspring ran out of the pen – somebody didn’t get the champion genes). Tick TOCK tick TOCK…then it’s go time! Off to a good start, Boss bolted at the gun. And then about 2 feet from the finish line he stopped. Faked left, went right and then just stood there. Meanwhile, the semi-final round 3 champion was on its way to the finals en route to becoming the next potential national champion.
Immediately we told Boss he was still a champion. He will always be number one to us. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the….I don’t remember how it goes but the point is that he’s a winner. If not in this round, then in doggy life. We love you Boss no matter when you cross the line. Or if you just stop 2 feet away from it, stand there and decide – not today.
Next year, we'll train specifically for this event. Peak for it, taper and have a more solid plan. We will show up on race day and execute the plan. And the plan will include bacon.
Because one day, I want to be the one wearing this shirt.
Dream big, little dog, DREAM BIG!
**In case you are wondering, they did give out a race t-shirt and it has already made it's way into Chris' wardrobe right next to the Battlebots t-shirt. He wore the shirt to dinner tonight. And plans on wearing it on race morning at Clearwater to psyche his competition out. Chihuahua race semi-finalist. What you got, Mr. Potts?