Friday, September 19, 2014

Rest Day - Antelope Island

Antelope Island is a great place to spend a rest day.  It's full of wildlife and surrounded by the Great Salt Lake and there are easy trails with little elevation gain so I can let the dogs stretch their legs a bit without wearing mine out.  Just enough walking to keep the blood flowing.  I've been all 3 years I've gone to Nationals and this year didn't disappoint.

We saw loads of bison.

Some were a little too close for comfort.

I'm glad this wasn't my tent.  Not that we were camping anyway.  My camping days are over.  The guy in the visitor's center going on about the wind and lightning and mosquitoes did not make me yearn for any more camping in my life.  But he was there to extend his permit one more day so apparently the hardship was worth it to him.

And of course antelope.

There were Jack Rabbits as well.  Lucky for them Lola can't run anymore.  He was up on his hind legs in a very cute pose but of course as soon as I got the camera pointed he ran away a bit and turned his back to me.

Beautiful mountain views across the lake.  And more buffalo.  Because you can never have enough buffalo.  I always feel bad for Ralphie the CU mascot when I see scenes like this.  Sadly the football team uses an actual real buffalo at their football teams rather than someone dressed in a buffalo suit.   Don't even get me going on that one.

The only bad thing about the island is that traffic is a bitch.  Glad I was in my car and not on my bike. 

There are nice hills on the island as well.  Supposedly there are big horned sheep on the island and I suspect they're up in these hills.  I've never seen them in the lower elevations and the trails up there are steep and not the best for hiking on a rest day so I've never been on them.

The causeway itself is a fascinating feat of engineering but I suspect I might be in the minority with my fascination.

Ah well, time to eat dinner and get my gear organized for tomorrow.  Two transition areas always makes for a fun sorting of gear the night before.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grooving Out Before Nationals - Swim/Run Day

I met my coach for a 10:00 a.m. swim in Pineview Reservoir on a beautiful sunny warm Thursday morning.  Water temp. was 66 degrees according to her thermometer.  Hopefully it'll be that warm on race day.  We only swam about 1/2 an hour, easy peasy pace, so relaxing.  I felt like I could have gone all morning.

Before my swim I let the dogs have at it.  Strummer loves to swim and Lola loves to get knee deep in the water and tell him what's what.

For a moment we wondered if we would be leaving Strummer there because he swam out a little bit and refused to get out when he realized we were leaving.  We got an alarming distance up the beach before he decided life with us wasn't so bad.  Normally he sticks to us like glue, especially when he's somewhere new.  That boy loves the water.

Then I had an easy 20 minute run.  A quick jaunt out to the transition area and back on a nice trail.  I could hear Strummer barking and see people walking away from the car while I was on the trail and when I got back Jonny was back at the car and said some women came up to him and said they were glad to see him because they were worried about the dogs in the car.  We had all the windows open and the rear hatch open and they were wet from swimming.  Both of them were perfectly fine when I got back and the car was plenty cool.  I realize some people are idiots and leave their dogs in hot cars but sheesh some people go too far the other way.

Grooving Out Before Nationals - Bike Day

Thankfully no apocalyptic floods this year so I was able to leave for Utah a few days early.  Yesterday was a pre-ride of the upper portion of the bike course.  We saw a moose family, turkeys and lizards and Jonny also saw some ptarmigans doing their mating dance thing and a marmot.  And of course the fall colors.

Riding up Sardine Peak.  Such an awesome trail.

Sardine Peak

Pineview Reservoir from Sardine Peak.  Thatsa lotsa climbing.

View from Sardine Peak

Near the top of Sardine Peak trail.

Obligatory photo with Snowbasin moose.  For once Lola didn't go off her head.  Maybe she remembered it from last year.

And my lunch buddy.

With this for a view.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fun at the USDAA Trial

Strummer and I competed in a USDAA tournament only trial this weekend, first one I've ever been to and it was very fun.  Classes moved along quicker than normal because there weren't course re-sets and walk-thrus for all the different levels.  I signed us up for 5 classes for both days, way more than our normal load but this will probably be our only trial until November and it's only 18 mins. from the house.  Saturday was long for me even though I was finished by 4:15.  My brain was in a muddle by the last run which thankfully was Speed Jumping and even though I got lost and confused we still managed to only get refusals and qualify for Finals, somehow in second place.  I guess lots of other people were muddled as well.

Some really fun, challenging, interesting courses, some of the best I've run in a while so I thought I'd share some maps and video.  Strummer did surprisingly well on courses that ate up a lot of really great teams.  I combined 4 of my favorite runs in one video which I realize is not ideal but I don't have time to go back and redo them.

Team Standard, MC Standard, MC Jumpers and Speed Jumping Finals

 The challenging part of Team Standard was the dogwalk to the A-frame.  Even people with stopped contacts struggled to get the backside of jump 6 because their contacts weren't independent, ie the dog didn't stop while they caught up and a front, rear or even a blind after 4 put people behind on the dogwalk so many dogs took the front side of 6.  I stayed on the left of the dogwalk and did a rear on the flat.  I called him to me to prevent him taking the wrong side of the jump and he missed his contact but might have missed it anyway and taken the wrong side of 6 if I hadn't called him.  Then 6-9 presented an issue for those of us with fast dogs who didn't want to loose our knees after the tunnel.  I stayed on the left side of the A-frame and was able to run fast enough to pick him up for 9.  It wasn't pretty but we got it done without a refusal.  I knew he'd come out of the tunnel the wrong way but he corrected easily enough.  15-18 proved an issue for some teams but we serped it no problem.  I was initially planning a front at the teeter but decided for a rear at 15 on the fly.  Thought it would be smoother.  Lots of E's on this course, was thrilled to make it through with only a missed dogwalk contact.

I thought MC Standard was easier than Team Standard except for the weave pole entry.  I had a feeling we would miss that.  I have practiced this scenario with a pull but it didn't work as planned.  Most people put a front in between 5 and 6 to make the weave entry easier for the dog.  I thought about it but decided I wanted to try the pull.  And again that knee destroying tunnel challenge at 7.  Not very smooth but we pulled it off.  Missed his dogwalk again but we still ended up in 3rd.

MC Jumpers was maybe the most fun course of the weekend.  I rushed his weave entry and he missed but otherwise he did great.  The fault put us into 2nd place.

Speed Jumping Finals.  Wee Ha Fast and Fun!  I turned a little too soon to avoid the off course jump and again helped botch the weave entry.  But otherwise a great run and a great weave entry off the A-frame.  The bobble cost us the win and we ended up in 2nd by only 1/2 a second.

Unfortunately the battery on my GoPro ran out without me realizing and I missed my Team Jumpers run.  I had spare batteries but the indicator didn't show the battery was low so I thought I had plenty of juice.  Here's the map anyway.  It was our only E of the weekend other than Grand Prix.  We had a back jump at 11 but otherwise a nice smooth run.  This was a challenging course for many and there were lots of E's.  Some had a back jump at 11 like I did, others had the off course jump at 3 because the dog went over 11 with way too much extension.  Others struggled with 13-15 either getting the #9 tunnel or a back jump at 14.  Strum had nice collection over 11, I simply decelerated, stopped and called him but rather than trusting him and continuing on I stood there watching him and for lack of any cues he turned back and took the jump.  I handled the line through 14 with him on my right, did a rear at 14 and a rear I think between 17 and 18.  Push to 19 was no problem.  Was very pleased with his rear at 14 since he struggles with rears in general and this one was a sharp turn.  He read it early enough and had enough collection though so he pulled it off nicely.  Lots of dogs had too much extension and either ended up in the tunnel or back jumping 14.  Some people intentionally turned their dogs to the left over 14 which took more time but was safer for not getting an off course  and easier on the dog if they didn't get a collection cue early enough.  Wish I had video but oh well.

I don't have video for Team Gamblers but this was our most exciting run.  I had an ambitious plan and had to alter it mid-course because I had extra time to I was a bit out of position when the horn blew but we pulled it off with 2 seconds to spare.  1st place and most points of all the dogs, Champ and Perf.  The numbers indicate the opening and the letters indicate the closing.  I'm a little unclear as to when the horn blew so the closing starts with either B or C.  25 obstacles in 38 seconds, that was a run my ass of, seat of the pants run.  And risky because there was a chance he'd blow past the finish jump and be over time and lose his closing points.  Most people did 2 loops of tunnel/tire for their closing or tunnel/tire/jump/teeter.  But the A-frame was the high point obstacle and including it and going for the fast line of jumps at the end seemed like more fun for Strummer rather than all that fussy turning.  A few people that tried this had trouble with the line of jumps at the end, missing G or running past the finish jump.  Also most people went to the left for the opening, taking the start jump/chute/A-frame then doing some combo of jump/tunnel/A-frame then moving on to the dogwalk or weaves to get back to the tunnel by the dogwalk for the closing.

Overall we did pretty well, our PVP Team got a Q in 4th place, Strummer was overall 2nd Team dog for 16" division, 2nd place in both Speed Jumping Rounds, 1st in Team Gamblers, 2nd in Team Standard, other placements kind of a blur.  And of course a 6 point Team Snooker run to keep us humble, his only truly naughty move of the trial when he ran behind me to take a tunnel I wasn't planning.  This happened to many teams.  Kind of my fault for taking my eye off of him and not leading out far enough but still.  Drives me crazy when he darts behind me.

Probably no more trials until November.  Unless I go to a USDAA trial in October which will probably only happen if I don't go to Xterra Nationals.  Which I might not because Jonny had the brilliant idea of let's buy another mountain bike that he absolutely does not need and an espresso machine and we have a huge car insurance bill next month and I'm not willing to dip into savings for a trip.  He seems to think we can pull it off but I'm not impressed with his financial planning skills at the moment so we'll see.  Maybe he has a stash of money lying about somewhere that I'm not privy to.  And yes I'm extremely aggravated.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sitting is the New Smoking - Life Hacks Outside the Ring

I suspect most people writing today are going to talk about what they do for their dogs to prepare for those few brief moments in the ring.  I'm going to focus on what we can do for ourselves, the human part of the team.  And of course some photos at the end of fun stuff I do with my dogs.  But so many agility folks spend so much time and resources on their dogs and such little time and resources on themselves, often to the detriment of their performance in the ring.

Movement/Mobility Practice or 'Sitting is the New Smoking'

This is a new concept to me but it's something I think could be a huge benefit to the agility community.  I'm not talking about yoga or pilates or any of those specific practices but rather the idea of generalized movements that help us maintain range of motion, flexibility and strength that are important for basic quality of life let alone the ability to do a front cross.  There are many examples of this on YouTube but Scott Sonnon's series of videos for beginners is where I'll be starting in a few weeks once I'm through with triathlon season.  Because even though I spend about 10 hours or so a week swimming, biking, running and lifting weights and a few more hours walking the dogs that leaves a good 100 hours per week that I'm largely sedentary and a good portion of that is probably spent sitting.  And if you haven't heard the mantra, 'Sitting is the new smoking' it's only a matter of time until you do.  Those standing desks can help but I can tell you from the personal experience of having a job that required me to stand all the time that that can cause physical problems as well.  The ideal state for the human body is a variety of positions and motions.  Alternating sitting down and standing up and taking little walking breaks is a good start.  But I want more, I want to be able to move like this guy:

Ido Portal


Another good resource is Kelly Starrett.  I finally got his book, 'Becoming a Supple Leopard-How to Hack Human Movement'  from the library and I started working my way through yesterday.  It's a BIG book.  Lots of info. to soak in.  May have to pony up the money for my own copy.

LOTS of free videos here.  And a great interview with him on London Real:

Kelly Starrett

I'm sure there are lots of other sources out there and if anyone knows a good one or if you have a movement practice please feel free to share in the comments.  In the meantime I've got a lot to keep me busy for the winter.  One-armed handstand by spring?  We'll see.  I think I'll start off with a flat-footed squat.  Because I may be able to hike/bike/run up a mountain and sort of keep up with a screaming fast off his head Border Collie but I can't do a simple flat-footed squat.


Sleep.  So important.  I'd like to get the recommended 8 hours but it usually works out to 7.  Falling asleep is no problem.  In fact staying awake to a reasonable hour is the bigger problem.  I'm lucky if I make it to 9:00.  T.V. puts me right out and reading is even worse so I'm not sure what to do at night.  Still working on that hack.  Then I'm usually up by 5:15-5:45 without an alarm.  Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night, more so in winter when I'm not training as hard for triathlons.  If I can't fall back to sleep I'll watch a mindless t.v. show on my tablet and it puts me right out.  This is exactly what the sleep experts tell you not to do but it works a treat for me.  So if you struggle with sleep and you've been following the experts' protocols to no avail then start experimenting on your own.

I've never tried it myself but some of my sleep clients have had success with binaural beats.  I make a CD for them from free tracks I find on the internet.  Of course I can't find the link right now, I downloaded the files years ago, but there are plenty out there, probably loads of apps. as well.

Lucid dreaming is something else I've played around with but not enough to notice any sort of performance advantages.  I did get to the point of being able to control a dream though and it was very cool.  Then I'd forget to follow the steps which for me were reminding myself throughout the day that I was awake and remembering my dreams as soon as I woke up.  Even making an effort to remember dreams is an interesting practice.  I need to leave a pad of paper on my nightstand so I can get in the habit of writing them down so I'll remember to remember.  There are other things you can do to bring on lucid dreaming but those two work for me.

In any case staying on top of sleep is important especially if you find yourself getting up super early a lot for trials.  I see so many short fuses on the second or third day of an agility trial and it's always folks who are complaining about how tired they are.  Hard to stay on top of that Snooker run if you're fatigued.


Also uber important.  Effects pretty much everything.  I could go on forever but I won't.  Last February I started some nutrition experiments on myself and I wrote about them here and here.  In short I've adopted a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet and it's had huge positive effects on my health and performance.  I eat LOTS of vegetables, little to no sugar or processed food, healthy fats in the form of grass fed meat and dairy products, coconut oil, almond butter, nuts, avocados, some olive oil.

Though weight loss wasn't the purpose I went from around 126-127 lbs last February to around 114 1/2 - 115 1/2 lbs in August (haven't been on a scale in a couple of weeks but those are the last numbers I have).  My blood work has always been good but this past June I had a good drop in triglycerides and a small drop in bad cholesterol, modest gain in good cholesterol.  Again, numbers were already good so they didn't have far to go.  I feel a lot better, I can go for long periods of time without being hungry which is handy at agility trials and during triathlon training and races.  I've not gone all the way to ketosis but it's on my list for this winter once I'm done with tri season.  Mostly interested to see if it will improve mental cognition.  Getting rid of the last bit of processed grains/gluten (whole wheat bread, tortilla chips, burrito and taco shells) made a huge difference in brain fog and energy levels.  I'm curious to take it to the next level.

Everybody's different though and it's important to experiment on yourself and see what works for you.  In general though if you want to be able to perform well at agility, life, whatever - eat real, healthy whole food, and don't eat processed food, grain fed beef and dairy products, processed seed oils, sugar, and gluten and you should be good.  And maybe some Vitamin D supplements if you're deficient.


As for Strummer he enjoys plenty of activities outside the ring.

Isabelle Glacier Bench

Same peaks in the background as the photo above but from a lower, farther away trail

Arapahoe Pass

Boulder Rez

Chatauqua Park/Enchanted Mesa


Wubba!!!  Snow!!!

Watering Can.  Bestest Toy Ever.

Banditing CU's Turkey Trot

Gotta have a rest day

Or two

Grand Canyon

This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day.  If you'd like to read about what other folks are doing Outside the Ring then click here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Xterra Buffalo Creek 2014

Xterra Buffalo Creek
1500 meter swim
22 mile bike
5 mile run
8000' elevation

Despite the ominous looking early morning fog rolling over the lake it was a perfect day for a race. 

The morning started out a bit chilly when I arrived at the race site at around 6:20 a.m. but once the sun rose above the hill in the picture shown above it warmed up nicely and stayed about as perfect as it gets.

I have more photos of the course here from last year's race and here from this year's pre-ride.

This year's race went way better than last year in part because last year I got sick from a gel very early on the bike and it took a good hour or so for my stomach to settle.  Also the training from a coach who actually knows what she's doing.  Also the new bike with the fancy suspension lockout.  Lots of non-technical climbing on this bike course and being able to lock out both front and rear suspension made a huge difference.  I cut 11:33 mins. off my bike time from last year and 3:02 mins.  off my run.  The swim was way short this year and I think it was long last year so it's not useful to compare swim times.  Overall my time was 24:02 mins. faster but again, the short swim means 14:35 better at least, maybe even faster if I'd had a relatively faster swim.  Still, a huge improvement and I was very happy.  And it was a very fun day, I felt great on the bike and was able to push myself on the run though the last few miles of the run did not feel so fabulous.  But they're not supposed to if you're doing it right.  Plus some bling, third place in my age group.

On the run I ended up running nearly the whole thing with another woman who was in her 30's and doing her second Xterra, her first race being Lory.  We ran the last few miles side by side, pacing and encouraging each other and near the finish line her boyfriend appeared with their boxer and cheered her in to the finish.  And something about this seemed awfully familiar.  Finally the memory from Xterra Lory bubbled to the surface.  As I was walking back to my car after Lory I heard a woman complaining to her boyfriend that the race had been too hard and no way was she going to do Buffalo Creek.  Now normally I would keep my trap shut but something compelled me to intervene.  Maybe because Xterra needs more women, maybe something about this particular woman, I don't know, but I piped up and told her what a beautiful, fun race Buffalo Creek is and as long as she puts in some training over the summer she'll love it, it's such a fun day.  I assured her the course wasn't technical, very fun smooth singletrack, challenging for the length of it (22 miles) and the climbing but SO much fun.  I know she can totally do it.  And as it turns out, this is the woman I was running with for the past 52 minutes.  After we cross the finish line I thank her for pulling me along and she does the same and I ask her by chance did she remember if a crazy lady tried to convince her to do the race back at Lory and oh yes, she remembers.  And yes, she had a great day and loved the race and was very glad she did it.  What are the chances of that? 

This is my last Xterra before Nationals and I'm feeling pretty good about things after this race.  There is one more off-road triathlon the week before Nationals that I might do as a rune-up race, still undecided about that.  Very happy with my season so far, can't wait for Nationals next month.

Final Stats

Swim:  1500 meters/1640 yards, 25:41 swimming (1:34/100 yards) and 25:56 official time.  Swim was definitely short. [last year about 33 mins. swimming time (2:01/100 yards)/35 secs. wading through mud and 1:46 dash up the beach for official time of 35:21]

T1: 2:31 (last year 2:32)

Mountain Bike:  22 miles, 2:23:25/9.2 mph  (last year 2:34:58/8.5 mph)

T2:  1:00 (last year 1:05)

Trail Run:  5 miles, 52:51/10:22 min./mile, (last year 55:53/11.11 min./mile)
Total:  3:45:44 (last year 4:09:46)

3/4 Age Group, 33/49 Women, 176/212 Overall
(last year 9/10 Age Group, 44/57 Women, 177/211 Overall) 

Swim:   3/4 Age Group, 21/49 Women, 128/212 Overall
              (last year 6/10 Age Group, 133/211 Overall)

T1:         1/4 Age Group, 17/49 Women, 101/212 Overall
              (last year 6/10 Age Group, 107/211 Overall)

Bike:      3/4 Age Group, 34/49 Women, 179/212 Overall
               (last year 9/10 Age Group, 198/211 Overall)

T2:         1/4 Age Group, 8/49 Women, 57/212 Overall 
              (last year 1/10 Age Group, 58/211 Overall)

Run:      3/4 Age Group, 40/49 Women, 186/212 Overall
              (last year 10/10 Age Group, 192/211 Overall) 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Strummer Days Drifting Away

It's flying by.  Was greeted by this stunning sunrise at the Rez this morning, a sure sign that summer is starting to wind down and fall will be here before we know it.

I'll have to remember to start bringing my real camera and maybe even try some video with the GoPro.  But somehow the craptastic iPhone camera did o.k. this morning.  Some things are so amazing that even crappy iPhone can't screw them up.

I realize I've been neglecting the blog.  I post quick things over on Facebook and forget to come here.  Stupid Facebook, I like reading blogs so much better but I'm in the minority.

I love this time of year and we've been having a stellar summer, relatively cool and just enough rain to keep the fire danger down, I'm not even starting to get burnt out on the heat and sun.  Wish all summers could be like this, it's like it was when we first moved here 24 years ago before all the droughts and global warming and Too Many People driving Too Many Cars.  I've even been able to do some backyard agility training with Strummer in the afternoon if I happen to be home.  Unheard of in August. 

Strummer sez, 'Yay for summer backyard ganes'.

Lola sez, 'Yay for summer backyard naps'.  She's 13 1/2 so she can nap all she wants.

And in other news Strummer went to the Boulder Ironman to cheer on the cyclists and got some cheers of his own from the cyclists.  And some snugs off of a lady with a cowbell.

I have a lot I could write about the Ironman in general but it's long winded and not very positive so I'll keep my yap shut.  Was interesting to watch the race though.  These photos are taken with 4-6 miles left on a 112 mile bike ride all of which had been in blazing sun up until that point.  The course went way out east where you may as well be in Kansas and it was probably poke your eyes out boring and these riders were just returning to town.  Some were happy for some crowd support, others had their heads down and were on a mission.  Some looked like they had a marathon left in them and others . . . not so much.  I avoided the downtown Finish Line hoopla but I did watch a bit of the finish on the Ironman website and it seemed like it wasn't a super deep field, ie not many people finishing at the pointy end.  But I don't know, maybe there are so many races these days that that's normal. 

Despite what the media were reporting this was not Boulder's first ironman.  There was an ironman back in 2001 that lasted a couple few years then turned into a half ironman then the Ironman cartel bought the half and added a full and this is the first year the full has been an Ironman under the official Ironman brand.  Which for some reason matters to people.  There was an ironman in Grand Junction this May and only 17 people went to that one vs over 3000 for the Official Ironman Brand race in Boulder.  Registration fee for the 2015 Grand Junction race was $200 on this year's race weekend, $250 until May 19 of this year and is currently at $400.  Registration for Official Ironman Brand race for this year's Boulder Race?  $760!  And I think the one in New York is/was over $1000.  Being an Ironman vs an ironman is a spendy proposition, not for the weak of wallet.  Whole new tax bracket.  Lots of super fancy cars parked at the Rez for masters swims and races in the couple few weeks before the race.  Quite an education in Ironman Culture over the past couple few weeks.  On the plus side my masters swim group must have made a nice profit this year.

Meanwhile my race season is still in full swing.  I have Xterra Buffalo Creek in 2 1/2 weeks then Xterra Nationals in September.  And maybe a non-Xterra sactioned off-road tri the week before Nationals just so I can get in the open water before Nats.  I'm not as fussy as the Ironman folk, non-Xterra is fine with me.  I'm pretty sure I already have enough points to qualify for Nationals even without Buffalo Creek.  I'm currently sitting in 8th place (top 10 go to Nationals) and with the exception of one person I don't think anyone else below me will do another race let alone 2.  The past 2 years I've finished in 7th place, we'll see if it happens again this year.

Then there's hiking in the high country, another summer treat.  Wildflowers are epic this year due to the snowy winter and wet spring.

I know you're jealous of my loud purple shorts. 

Oh yeah, and the rattlesnake.  We saw 2 on different trails but I only got a photo of this one.  The other one was angry and rattling and there were people between me and it so I couldn't see it before it slithered into a hole right next to the trail.  Still rattling and angry and I could still see it's silhouette.  Let a few other people go past it before I went and put my bike between me and it.  A little scary but I made it past.

Still a few more weeks to squeeze out as much as I can.  Better go throw another load of laundry into the washer.