Tuesday, December 27, 2011


One of the nice things about a holiday, for me at least, is to lie in bed in the morning, drink a cup of coffee and read a newspaper or a book.  As the Grauniad told us this morning, iProducts and Kindles are eroding the actual print copies of newspapers and oh irony of ironies I read that this morning from the warmth and comfort of my bed, a cup of coffee on the go, on an iProduct.

Further perusing the Grauniad (so-called because of their penchant for spelling errors) led me to cyclingnews because the Grauniad has a particularly good cycling section for a British paper (which predates the Manx Missile and then some) which led me to the "steepest street in the world" link.

35% eh?  Seems steep.

Call it web-based research (remember, wikipedia is not a reference), cyberslacking or mere random link-clicking, it got me to where I wanted to go.    You see, I was in Spain earlier this year and since I lost the blogging urge for a while mid-year I never got the opportunity to write about some of those experiences.  One of those experiences was ticking one thing off my cycling bucket-list.  Something I'd never done which always made me feel a little less of a cyclist.

Never mind that in over a quarter-century on the roads I've road-raced, time-trialed, psycho-crossed, triathloned (is that a verb?), bike-couriered, commuted, toured, ridden in stupid baking sun humidity (Virginia) and oh-my-God freezing cold (Canada) and everything in-between, crashed and got stitches and screws, worked in a bike-shop and even been in a beer-club with a cycling problem (Crest CC, I'm talking to you) but I've never climbed a mountain col.  

Besides, for a guy of my size (north of 160lb/72 kg, not by much but still north) I like to think I'm not a bad climber.  It's one thing to punch it up and over the hills of the Shubie Doobie Tri or drag a loaded touring bike over North Mountain, but how would I measure up on a proper hill?  It was time to find out.

World Du's had been on the Sunday and la belle and I were now planning what to do for the next week.  We had no plans other than to relax, see a bit of the locale and ride our bikes some.  For me, I wanted to check out a climb from the Vuelta d'Espana; Gijon often hosts a stage of the Vuelta and it's almost always a mountain stage, so that shouldn't be a problem.

We were very lucky in that one of the World Du's LOC, Raul Martin, took us under his wing for most of the week.  It started in the officials'/LOC meeting when it turned out we were the only three there working and racing the event, and then when he bartered me two Federacion d'Espanola de Triatlon running jerseys for my Team Canada fleece cycling jacket.    Before we knew it he was showing us around the Asturias.  We were los Canadiens for the week and we loved it.

After a day to decompress he showed us around Aviles and Oviedo, where we also met Jorge Garcia, World Du's Race Organizer (who we'd met the previous year in Edinburgh) and recently minted ITU level 3 official.

We then headed west out of Gijon to Ballotta, via one of the best beaches in the area, according to Raul, near La Magdalena.  I don't have any reason to dispute this.

In Ballotta we stayed at the Casa Fernandez, run by the family of Beatriz Tenreiro, one of the best female triathletes in the area and a top-ten finisher at Spanish Nationals this year.  Together with Beatriz's husband and coach, Miguel Angel, they all took us on a lovely ride along the coast road to Luarca.  It was a great road-ride, twisty and climb-y.  These were their training roads and they descended like bats out of hell!  I did't even try to keep up!

I felt at home and at ease with these cyclists, who I'd never met before.  It's funny how some people scare you on a bike and some people don't.  What made it more remarkable was we couldn't really talk with one another, so we did our talking with the bike and we got on just fine.  They didn't scare us and we didn't scare them.  I felt like a real cyclist again,  They complemented us on our road-handling skills, perhaps they were worried about being on the roads with triathletes, fortunately we were cyclists first!  Talk about keeping Canada's end up!

Nice little story; I asked what was the Spanish for "car behind" seeing as we were 5-up on a twisty road. Oh, "don't worry" was the answer, "the cars will look after us".  By goodness they were right.  A 60km ride on a twisty coast road, sometimes three abreast or bombing down hills at > 60 kph (Miguel and Raul at least, I descended with the ladies) and not once did we get honked up.  I want to move there.

Oh, they also asked me if I was la belle's coach! As if!  

The next day we had a rendezvous with the climb.  Raul told me we had two choices; Lagos de  Covadonga or the Alto d'Angliru.  Now, I've heard of the Angliru; 10% average but supposedly 25% in places and so hard the team-cars can't get up there.  Pros put on compacts and (if appropriately sponsored) SRAM WiFli.  Velonews named Team Sky's choice of gears on the Alto d'Angliru in this year's Vuelta as their "Technical Blunder of 2011".  I did not know of this Covadonga climb of which he spoke, but how could it be worse than the Angliru?

We met up with Raul in his home town just outside of Ovieda and drove the 50kms or so to the foothills of the Picos d'Europa.  

To perk ourselves up for the climb we stopped for coffee at Cangas d'Onis, which my pet cow really enjoyed (more about her later).

We parked up just outside Soto de Cangas, unloaded, chucked our legs over the top-tube and headed off.  A very low-key start. Unlike the pros, we hadn't raced 100kms to get here, so what could possibly go wrong?

It wasn't good road, very harsh chip-seal.  It was a bit of a false flat; combined with the road-surface, I was already in the 23, doing about 20 kph and the climb hadn't started yet.  I had time to reflect on the statement "what could possibly go wrong".

We hit a couple of roundabouts and then we came to the basilica of Covadonga: little did we know it but this was in some ways the birthplace of modern Spain, where Pelayo had turned back the Moorish invasion.  

The climb started and within 500m of the cathedral, I was in the 27 already.  Ah.  Never mind.  I didn't have anything left below this and this wasn't the place to start berating myself for not fitting a compact or a big cassette and an XT derailleur before we left.  So I gritted my teeth and got to grips with what I had; 39 x 27.  We were to be together for most of the climb.

La belle says I rocketed up the first section.  I didn't think I was pounding it, but riding within myself.  She was riding comfortably with Raul: after all, I was the col virgin.  Raul had been up Covadonga  several times, including at the end of a longish brevet (is there any such thing as a short brevet?) and la belle had done the Ventoux.  I was the only one who didn't know what was coming!

I climbed well for about 5 kms, or about 350 vertical metres, when I passed the tree-line.   The longest climbs I'd done had been in the 5 km range, in the Grampians or the longer climbs in the Annapolis Valley, and none of them had ever gone above the tree-line.  The climb at Worlds three days earlier, which had many Nova Scotian's worried, was just under 200 vertical metres in just under 5 kms.  We weren't even half-way up and I was already into uncharted territory.  Here be dragons!

Then disaster. The average gradient of the climb is given as 7.5% with some 10% pitches and one 15% pitch, about 800m long at about 6 kms.  They call this pitch la huesera; the bone woman.  She had me.

I'd noticed the day before than even strong riders such as Beatriz and Miguel were rocking triples,  Raul was.  La belle had argued with me long and hard about my choice of a compact double for her bike, but I didn't hear her complaining about the 36 inner ring (34" gear with  28T).  On the other hand, I was rocking out on 39 x 27 (38"); yup I'd brought a gun to a knife fight.

My heart was coming out of my chest and my legs were blocked.  I was fixated on the remainng section of la huesera, I could see it turn right by 90 degrees, maintaining an even 15% gradient as far as I could see.  Fuck.  I stopped for the first time on a climb since I can remember.  They say walking a bicycle up hill is the cyclists walk of shame, and that's how I felt.  La huesera had found me wanting.  Bitch.   I rolled to a halt next to a cow, who just looked at me.

Le belle and Raul caught me.  They stopped and we all took the time for a photo, a drink and a little gee-up session for me.   Everyone stops the first time, Raul told me.  He then let me know what was to come; the gradient evened out but there were short ramps at 10 to 15%.  Nothing like this.  Bueno.

We set off again.  There was a look-out, or mirador in Spanish, on the corner and I really wanted to stop again but la belle overtook me and, I think, called me some names.   Chalice.  That got me going again.

I knuckled down and rode the ramps.  As Raul said, the gradient was pretty even with lumps and bumps. For los canadiens reading this, at the shallowest it was like the steepest part of the BLT trail as it climbs to Bayers Lake, but the ramps were like any of the harder climbs around here.

At the top there is the Lagos Enol (an alternative name for the climb). The Vuelta's finish is flatter and to the left.  

Naturally, we went to the right for another few hundred metres of climbing, but unlike the Vuelta's finish, this road dead-ended at a bar.

Muy Bueno.  

About 1100 vertical metres climbed in 12 kms (there was a small descent before the finish, so if we were 1036 above sea level, we had a tad more climbing on the clock).  My Garmin has more, but it's not an accurate altimeter.  Put it this way, it's clocked me at 10 metres below sea-level when I've been on the ocean!  To put Covadonga in perspective, Cape Smokey on the Cabot Trail climbs 200 vertical metres in just under 2 kms.

How about those Bontrager Node 2 computers?

A word about cows.  It had started as a little joke.  Readers of this blog know I have a little pet cow called Moo (imaginative huh?) who goes on my travels with me.  It seemed right and proper she climb Covadonga on my jersey pocket.  

However, Covadonga was covered with Moos of the original variety: big, one-ton, slab-sided, mobile hunks of beef-on-the-hoof.  They just littered the road and didn't give a shit.  Or maybe they did, plenty of manure on the road too: wouldn't like to hit that at speed, in the wet on the way down!  On the way up it wasn't so bad; the closing speed was 10 kph, or less, and you had plenty of time to work out which way to overtake a stationary cow, especially if a car was coming the other way.  On the way down, it's a different matter.  

I read earlier this year that if Thomas Voeckler regretted anything about this years Tour de France it was chasing too much on Alpe d'Huez and not checking out the descents.  I feel that.  It took us 75 minutes or so to climb to the top, and 30 to get back down: and I was descending like a girl.  I mean that too, having ridden with some of the Youth triathletes.  I didn't even break 50 kph.  I wasn't the only one, la belle literally burnt trough a set of cork pads!  Partly it was just not knowing the corners, partly it was the sheer exposed nature of it: you could see that of you flipped over the barrier (which wasn't really a barrier, just a concrete post like the one which killed Fabio Casartelli) then it was a long way down.  Partly it was not wanting to broad-side a cow at full tilt (one suspects the cow wouldn't notice) and part of it was having to full-on concentrate for 30 minutes.  Even at speed on a straight road in a pace-line you can switch off a little bit, it seemed like that would be suicidal here.  Still, going slowly we got some nice views.

Now here's the thing: it was really hard going up and really easy going down.  Yet we stopped repeatedly on the way down to take pictures, not on the way up, when repeated stops wold have been welcomed.  Yup, we're cyclists!

At the bottom we hit the bar with a huge stack of sandwiches, taller than Moo, made from the local Jamon Serrano, even more appropriate today as Jamon Serrano literally means "mountain ham" 

And that was the climb of Cowadonga. Moo!


Sunday, December 25, 2011


Sunny, -10C, no wind, snow on the ground and the occasional patch of black ice this morning.  All-in-all, meterological conditions that send the Guardian or Daily Mail into paroxsyms of weather-laden gloom and, for all I know, boosting climate-change deniers the length and breadth of the country. Apologies to my UK friends but from over here, that's how on-line media appears.  One snow-flake and it's snowmageddon.  Start hoarding the canned goods Mabel, that snow-drift is an inch deep, we'll be cut off for days!

Not that I'm becoming a smug pseudo-Quebecer with the whole mon pays ce n'est pas un pays c'est hiver thing but the conditions today were perfect for a winter run.  As always the first mile was a bit cold, but I warmed up soon enough and the remaininig distance was a joy.  The ice made me slow down enough to enjoy the scenary.  As you might expect it was pretty quiet, so quiet in fact I had to remind myself to check both ways when crossing the street!  I got honked up once, by some old boy on Barrington Street who I think took exception to me running in the bike lane.

I listened to Handel's Messiah on French CBC Radio while I was running, and it made me wonder.  Sure, it's a traditional Christmas piece, or at least the first part is (it's 60% Easter), but at heart it's an English oratorio, written by a transplanted German for a German king and sung (this is the crucial thing) in English!  I enjoyed it. but I can imagine there are retired colonels all over la belle province writing to Le Journal complaining about the steady erosion of French on SRC!

I also realised that the Messiah was a great piece of music to run to.  With so many short movements from adagio to allegro, you could do a great fartlek run.  Never mind "let's do 4:00 pace to the lights" or "race you to the tree" you can say "let's go hard to the end of 'the glory of the Lord'".  Sounds geeky I know.

I kid you not, but I finished my run to the Hallelujah chorus,  Seriously.  Honestly.  I couldn't have timed it better.  In fact, if I'd tried to do that, I doubt I would have nailed it as precisely as I did, with the opening bars as I hit the final kilometer and finishing as I turned down Summit St.  OK, I might have blown through a couple of traffic lights and I certainly finished with tears in my eyes.  Must have been the cold.

Also, as I was runnimg, I was already standing too (take that Kevin Mallon);  double-plus bonus

My one dilemma for the holiday was, perhaps a surprising one.  With la belle being away I can watch a ton of movies.  She's not really a movie person.  Unfortunately I am.  Probably got it from the old man, who was not only a big fan of the movies, but a big fan of seeing movies in a cinema (that's theatre, or theater, to you).  She's not as bad as some people I have known, mind you, who took a perverse delight in being counter-culture and not watching movies.  All it meant was, instead of appearing above such quotidian proletarian pleasures and eschewing the new opiates of the masses they just didn't "get" the zeitgeist and made it increasingly difficult to have any kind of conversation!

Anyway, back to my dilemma and what movies to watch now I have my druthers.  I had considered, and rejected a marathon; all six Star Wars movies, the Bourne or Oceans 11/12/13 trilogies for instance, mainly because of the time.  Hell, if I'd done Star Wars I could have started this morning at eight and still be going strong close to midnight.  A friend suggested Lord Of The Rings.  It makes sense to watch all of them in a row, after all I've tried watching them separately and all I do is get confused and what, they've already killed Richard Sharpe?  Time constraints again came to mind: it would be nice to do something this Christmas besides watch LOTR, besides I've got to be back at work on Tuesday!

My criteria were that they had to be Christmas movies, but nothing with red-and-green and sprogs of holly on the cover, nor those black-and-white tear-jerkers either.  You know I hate Christmas, and while I was prepared to indulge in the schmaltz at the shop by playing cheesy Christmas music, don't expect me to do it in my spare time!

From my own (surprisingly high) stack of DVDs, it's got to be Love Actually and When Harry Met Sally.  WHMS I can watch any time, but Love Actually makes me feel homesick if I'm not careful, even though it has been said that Richard Curtis presents an unrealistic view of England!  So long as I watch it early in the rotation before the port kicks in.  What else?  The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe came to mind, it's kinda Christmas in the middle.  If I was going to do that then I got Prince Caspian as well, basically because I haven't seen it yet.  I wanted to get Die Hard, after all, it happens at Christmas, yippe kay yay, but Vid Dif were all out.

Instead I went for Ben Hur, now there's a solid three hours of my life committed.  Kinda biblical in it's own way, but more slave-galleys than the original.  The film is so long you have to flip the DVD over mid-movie, like an old LP.  Maybe I'll have ice-cream in the intermission, just like we used to do in the movies so many years ago.

Finally, for now, Moonraker, because what's Christmas without a Bond movie?  Every Brit worth their NaCl knows this.  All this from Vid Diff, and it didn't really cost me anything because every time we have a draw at work I seem to loose the big prize (apart from the Flak Jackets. thanks Terry) but win a Vid Diff coupon.  Between that and the Running Club, I don't think I've spent any of your actual money at Vid Diff for a while.  Funny that it's Blockbuster that went out of business.  Any other ideas, let me know,  I've still got a Vid Diff coupon to burn before New Years.

Well, time to Irish up some coffee and get comfy on the couch, I've got a stack of DVDs to burn through....


Saturday, December 24, 2011

From When Harry Met Sally to Karl Popper.

A quiet evening in for now; the boys have gone back home, la belle is in Florida, so it' me and Elvis (the King, thanguvurrymush) and before I hit Portugal's finest and get too maudlin, maybe a line or two of blog.

Up way too early this morning to take la belle to the airport, early as in 04:00, doesn't even qualify as oh dark thirty.  Ugh.  Reminds you of the airport scene in When Harry Met Sally doesn't it?  "I never take anyone to the airport in the first three months of a relationship becasue eventually you stop taking the to the airport and I never want someone to ask me why I don't take them to the airport any more".  More-or-less.  To be honest, you could live the whole holiday season through Nora Ephron quotes without trying too hard.  I usually default to "every year I just try to get from the day before Thanksgiving to the day after New Years".  

Anyway, I took la belle to the airport and maintained my record in the "how come you don't take me to the airport any more" stakes.  She wanted to take a bike to FLA so I did a little work on her Trek 520 (ten years old and still ticking) and packed it in  box for her.  Never underestimate the power of a new chain and cassette as stocking-stuffers!  Useful and shiny and, if you get Shimano, possibly in a grey and blue box.  Did I say shiny and blue box?  Nothing says "I love you" like a 32T sprocket.

Now, we're no strangers to travelling with bikes on planes but even my eyebrows rose a fraction too high when the airline clerk said "Bike?  That'll be $200".  Crickey, that's a bit steep; makes Air Canada seem bike-friendly.  I can't help believing (oops, too much Elvis) that airline clerks just quote you the first number that comes into their head when they see a bike, say between 75 and 250, and see if it'll stick. I also can't help believing (thanguvurrymush) that a set of golf-clubs wouldn't get dinged quite so much, and one suspects it's just because golf is the game of the 1%.  #occupycheckin I say!

Another observation this morning was the inverse correlation between how happy and customer-friendly the  airport staff where vs. the presence and/or size of the Santa hat.  The security-screeners were hatless to a man and woman and the picture of helpfulness and smiles.  They even commented on how we'd come equipped with packing tape so we could seal the box after it had been X-rayed and potentially opened.  Compare and contrast to the check-in clerk, Santa hat with a bobble practically in her eyes, who condescended and patronised each passenger I saw her interact with, short of being down-right rude.  One suspects she only plays that card when people spark off her lack-of-customer relation skills.  

So, in the spirit of Karl Popper let me say airline check-in sucks. There was an apparent correlation between suckiness and Santa hats which leads me to propose the hypothesis "that there exists an inverse relationship between friendliness and the presence and/or size of a Santa hat". Of course, many a beautiful theory has been slain by ugly fact, but in this case I think one suspects we may be onto something, For one week a year could airline service be improved by the simple expedient of banning Santa hats?  What would the knock-on effects further down the economy on the makers of Santa hats be?  Could this loss be off-set by making flying a pleasurable experience again, putting bums on seats should the hats be banned?  And what of Easter?  Whitsun?  Some random day in August?  Do your own observations, my fellow scientists and try and falsify (not prove) the original hypothesis.  If you can't, p < 0.05, then we have a new law of nature.   



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Funny old day

Forty-two is supposedly the answer to the ultimate question; the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Certainly when I went to bed last night, at the tender young age of forty-one I didn't have any of the answers, and when I woke up this morning at the ripe old age of forty-two I still didn't have any of the answers. When my programme at NRC was somewhat summarily and peremptorily closed, another Douglas Adams line floated through my head; "so long and thanks for all the fish". Unfortunately, five years later and I'm still no closer to providing you with a more coherent answer to the ultimate question than that. 

I guess that means my brain is safe from the mice.

I've long maintained that my birthday should be more a time for introspection than celebration. Partly because as we get older we need to take some time to take stock of who we are, what we have done, what we are doing and where we are going; a bit like a performance-and-planning review for the soul.  The older we get, the longer that list gets.  At this rate I'll need to book a week's leave-of-absence for my 50th!    Also, partly, because I'd die of embarrassment if anyone made a fuss of me in public, and by public I mean any place where there are three or four people other than myself. 

The day went was planned, nice and low-key. A little run with the club this morning (5km easy, 6 km  not-so-easy, but just to see if these old legs still had it in them you understand), hung out at Chapters this afternoon, spent a little quality time with la belle. This evening we were scheduled to go to a friend of ours from running who was having a pot-luck Christmas party for friends from the local running community. There were going to be two of us there with birthdays this weekend, so at our hostesses' suggestion we bought birthday cakes as our contribution to the evening,  Should have been a nice evening.  Not a birthday party, but a party with friends and cake.  Bam!

Unfortunately I didn't get to stay beyond a plate of finger-food. In fact, our visit was so swift, la belle's allergies to the hostesses' cats didn't even have time to kick in; shit, we beat a degranulating mast-cell.  Receptor/ligand reactions take milliseconds.  A T-cell can read millions of immunological synapses in  a second or two and yet we got out before a positive match.  Not often you can say you beat out 380 million years of vertebrate evolution, but we managed it.  I mean, who parsed that fucking invite list? How are we defining runner?  It's not fucking rocket-surgery you know. 

Still, the less you expect, the less upset you are when you don't get it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm going to miss my cake though. It was a carrot cake too! Oh well, I refer you to my previous statement about expectations! 


Friday, December 16, 2011

Master Baker

Sometimes there's an advantage in having such a wide range of life experiences at work.  Sure, no-one is ever going to call on me to exsanguinate a fish or do a quick spot of PCR or manual sequencing, but I still get to use my mind and it seems nowadays whenever anything needs writing or proof-reading I get the call.  There'll be no more split infinitives on Cyclesmith's website on my watch!  Stephane, our floor manager is a trained chef and when I got to work yesterday I found these on the kitchen table

 It was all I could do not to scarf the lot down immediately.  however, I did consider placing a "Not for consumption; display purposes only" sign on them.  The cupcakes were delicious, either gingerbread or carrot-cake.

Whilst eating my cupcake I had a look on cyclingnews.com, under the pretense that if I was going to cyberslack in a bike-shop, I should be doing so on something that could be construed as work-related.  Actually, velonews.com has a very good tech section, which has to be work-related, but I digress.  Whilst on cn I nearly choked on my cupcake, but in a good way, when I saw the pictures from the Liquigas end-of-season party.  The riders, naturally, were dressed as pure Eurotrash; exhibit A; Vincent Nibali's trousers;

...but then the North Americans were no better.  Who can remember (I'm trying to forget) Garmin-Cervelo's team intro this season and Christian Vande Velde's Norwegian curling trews?  Why?

The Liquigas boys didn't eschew trousers but their guests did;

those are the Miss Ciclismo ladies in the back cavorting in the nearly altogether.  Here's Miss Ciclismo 2011 Nancy Bernacchia there, doing her best to remember the Little Prince has sucked on a bike for nearly a decade now and the Piccolo name-tage is surely wearing thin....

And there is so much a double entendre there.  Maybe thats why Nancy's smiling.  So much for taking women in cycling seriously.  Maybe Bronzini was right.

Still. when you consider the family-safe North American version was David Zabriske doing karaoke, maybe a bit of southern European elan is the lesser of two evils.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Uncontrolled control.

Maybe it's just human hubris, but we haven't really tamed nature.  We think we have.  Maybe we have it under some sort of control, most of the time, but tamed?  Not really.  It doesn't take long for the checks and balances to become unchecked and unbalanced.  Just ask New Orleans. 

So I was running tonight and a dog came at me; one of those low-slung, muscly ones with the big head (I'm not good with breeds).  Ears back, head down, wide-eyed, tail out, fur up, teeth bared, snarling and making that back-of-the-throat growl that makes you look around for the nearest pointy implement or tall tree. I guess it's an evolutionary thing: five million years ago when an Australopithicine heard that growl it was climb or become dinner (or a very elegant fossil) and as we are, by definition, descended from the survivors, those who climbed and were not dinner, we have retained that instinct.

As any runner knows, the owner was right behind, not quite behind enough to have any of your actual control over the beast but behind enough to utter the familiar refrain, you know the one

"Don't worry, he's quite friendly".

I had the presence of mind to reply 

"Of course; it was the snarl and teeth that gave it away"

and she looked at me like I'd grown an extra head.  The dog, on whose leash she was now standing, looked at me like I was dinner.  I looked at the dog like our Australopithicine ancestors may have done, disguised fear mainly, I held my keys out in front of me (I'd found a pointy implement if not a tall tree) and said 

"if he comes for me again, I'll protect myself"

and, of course, she gave me that extra head look again.  Protect himself?  For why?  Everyone knows that Muffy is a quiet and gentle dog, really very friendly, loves to be scratched and (as the old joke goes) loves children.

As I continued my run, with great trepidation as I was now turning my back to, and behaving like prey towards, a highly mutated top carnivore which had already marked me down as a light snack, I suddenly thought of the reply I should have given.

"Madam" I should have said. "if you do not have the common sense to understand, or find out about, the basic dog psychology or animal behaviour patterns of your dog, you should not be allowed to have a dog".

"Dogs are pack animals.  Your dog loves you because you are the alpha-male in his pack.  He looks up to you as the leader.  He fawns at you because he is essentially sacred of you, and when you scold him he puts his tail between his legs and whimpers because deep down, some animal part of his brain thinks you might quite literally rip out his throat."

"To your dog anyone not in his pack, viz, you and him, is an outsider and either trying to steal his food, his territory or somehow threaten his pack.  Like any good pack animal, he'll respond violently to such threats.  Either that or you're food, and lets face it, you respond the same way.  No prey animal ever lay down willingly to be eaten, you have to chase the buggers down and bite them repeatedly until they get the message."     

"Of course, not all dogs behave like this all of the time.  Most of the dogs I encounter as a runner or in real life either don't give a shit that I'm there or regard me with a certain contempt once they realise I do not have any food on me.   But deep down in their DNA there's a wolf and sometimes other dogs, runners, children, sheep, whatever can turn into a threat or food.  So your well behaved, cute house-pet can quite literally turn into a monster given the right cues.  We don't always get those cues and can't always predict when Muffy's going to go all postal. If you don't understand that, you probably shouldn't have a dog. and you certainly shouldn't let it off it's leash on the Halifax Commons (local bylaws notwithstanding)."

"I know the theory of what do do in these situations.  Don't run: you look like prey.  Puff yourself up: you'll look bigger and more threatening.  Don't smile: it bares your teeth and looks like a threat-display.  Oh, and look for a pointy implement or a tall tree.  If it's (apparently) incumbent on me to know enough of the psychology of your dog so I don't get attacked, the least you can do is understand the psychology of your dog so when it tries to attack me you realize that "don't worry, he's quite friendly" isn't really going to cut it!"

That's what I should have said.  

Ah, hindsight.  Still, maybe I'll print it out, laminate it and hand it out to dog-owners the next time I'm running from their little darlings.  Who knows, maybe it'll give us something to talk about while I wait for someone to put the sutures in my calf and they're shaking their heads in disbelief saying "but he's such a good dog at home"