Monday, August 22, 2016

Xterra Winter Park - Snow Mountain Ranch

This race was supposed to take place 2 weeks ago but was postponed due to heavy rain/flooded trails.  But this new race day turned out to be perfect.  Started out a bit cloudy like last year.



The drive over Berthoud Pass was spectacular as low clouds hung in the valley below the pass.  It's always a weird feeling driving above the clouds.  Have some video on my dashboard cam, maybe I'll get around to downloading it before I erase it.

Anyway the swim went well for me despite the cool cloudy conditions and cold-ish water temps.  I never heard an official temperature but 2 weeks ago it was 63 degrees so I'm guessing somewhere between 61-63.  According to Garmin, air temp. was 36 degrees which I seriously doubt.  I think my phone said 42 degrees when I arrived at around 6:35 a.m.  Felt more like mid to upper 40's by race start at 8:00.  But who knows.  All I can say for sure is that I was fine, no worry or hypothermia or terrible head rush of my brain is freezing when I put my head in the water though it was for sure cold.

Swim was short this year at 767 yards (supposed to be 1100), even shorter than last year, but nobody was complaining including me.  I swam harder this year, wasn't so concerned about panic or the altitude, but not as hard as I can.  Pace was 2:05/100 yd. compared to my typical triathlon pace of 1:50 or so but this included a run out of the water, across a short bit of beach and back in again for the second lap and I took a few seconds on the beach to catch my breath a bit before starting the second lap.  Last year's pace was 2:15/100 yd. so that was a big improvement.

T1 was pretty fast despite wearing swim socks and neoprene cap.  Those regular shoes for flat pedals are so much faster to put on than bike shoes w/ cleats.

Bike went well but was slower this year, 7.0 mph compared to 7.3 mph.  My knee was bothering me a bit on the steeper climbs and I felt my mind wandering a bit.  I didn't have as many people to ride with this year somehow so I found myself losing focus more easily.  Course was a half mile shorter than last year and descended Coyote Tooth on a different trail that I walked in a few places so that may account in part for the slower time but the sections were so short I can imagine it was a huge factor.  I did ride down the steep section into the gully that I walked last year, just made sure to control my speed going into it and it was no problem.  Some guys at the front of the race spotted a couple of moose but I never saw them.  And a woman was held up for 20 minutes by a bear on the trail.  You never know what might happen during an Xterra.  Though I do remember the one year that a woman hit a bear on her bike during the Boulder Peak Triathlon.  No wildlife sightings for me this time, darn it.

Run went really well, over 2 minutes faster than last year and my knee didn't bother me too much.  And I held off someone coming from behind at the finish line which is always a mental challenge for me so I was happy about that.  Sun came out for the run but it was still plenty cool.  So much better than Mountain Champs. where it was so hot.

Overall a great race day for me, had fun and some improvements over last year.  Finished in 3:06:56 compared to 3:14:10 last year though swim and bike were a bit shorter this year.

And you gotta love the finish area.



Plus some unexpected bling for me.


There was someone in my age group who finished ahead of me but she finished in the top 3 women overall so I got bumped up a spot for 1st in the age group.  Sort of a weird thing but that's how most races do it.


FINAL STATS

Swim:   767 yards (861 yards last year) (per Garmin), 15:57 (19:30 mins.) 2:05/100 yards (2:15/100 yards) 26 strokes/min.

T1:  2:32 (3:42 last year)

Mountain Bike:  13.4 miles (13.9 miles last year), 1834' elevation gain (1788'),  1:56:07, 7.0 mph (1:56:28, 7.3 mph)

T2:  0:51 secs. (54 secs. last year)

Trail Run:  4.0 miles, 500' elevation gain, 51:21 (53:36 last year), 12:57 min./mile (13:28 min/mile)

Finish:  3:06:56, (3:14:10 last year)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Take Back the Power

What's your plan for tomorrow?
Are you a leader or will you follow?
Are you a fighter or will you cower?
It's our time to take back the power

The Interrupters, 'Take Back the Power'

This!



Have been feeling sort of sluggish this summer.  Maybe the heat, maybe the hormonal adjustments, maybe the losing Strummer, probably a combination of them all plus who knows what.  My race from 2 weeks ago (Xterra Winter Park) was postponed to this weekend due to some freak rain and flooded trails and 40 degrees and cloudy on race morning.  I was so thankful the race director postponed.  Apparently one person was giving him a load of hassle, sending loads of texts with pictures of the trail in places where it was o.k. on race morning.  But the area just out from transition was mud so goopy that you'd sink in it and standing water on other parts of the trail and did I mention the 40 degrees and cloudy for race start?  The race starts at just under 9000' which means the water is cold.  63 degrees or so which is not crazy horrible but still cold enough and add that to 40 degree air temp. and he would have been pulling people out of the water with panic and hypothermia.  I think those conditions would cross my line and I might have skipped the swim.  So I'm very happy to be racing this weekend where conditions look just about perfect.  Some afternoon rain storms predicted for a few afternoons previous to get the trails nice and tacky and sunny with a high of 71 degrees for race day.  Will still be cold for the swim (probably low 50's air temp. and colder water temp. than 2 weeks ago) but with the sun out it should be do-able.  Then perfect conditions for the bike and run.  I can't wait.

Except for the sluggish.  Dragging my ass swimming at the Rez on Tuesday and this morning was even worse.  But Jonny showed me an Interrupters video and now finally I've found a new theme song and hopefully some new found energy to go along with it.  Add in 2 more days of rest, some cooler temps. and the beauty of the race venue in the mountains and I should be good to go.

Another contributing factor to the malaise could be that I'm still battling the wasps.  I see these crazy people on YouTube with their various methods of wasp extermination and they seem like they've lost it, a bit touched in the head or something.  But now I understand.  It becomes an obsession.  You think you've finally won and then you see they've found another way in or are building a nest around the corner or have learned to avoid your Shop Vac nozzle.  Crafty little bastards.  So far I've been through:

6 bottles of dish soap/water solution
5 wasp traps
2 sandbags
2 rolls of duct tape
2 tubes of caulk (about to buy tube #3)
2 ladders
1 plastic rain poncho
zillions of rags
1 Shop Vac

And still they persist.  But I'm getting upper hand, definitely a lot less of them around and they're active for less hours of the day now that we have more darkness and cooler mornings.  But still, this is what my house currently looks like:


I know, I'm like the other crazy internet people.  But I will prevail.

In happier news my garden is doing well.  Zucchini plant is going crazy.  One in particular got way too big because I couldn't get in there to pick it due to wasps.

Big as a Chiwowow


Or maybe she's small as a zucchini.

She's doing great these days.  Took her on another 20 min. run this week and she loved it.  One more week and she's cleared for any and all activities including jumping.  I think she likes her new home.


She looks gigantic in that picture somehow.  Cameras are funny things, I wasn't trying to have an optical illusion.

Ah well, time to fret over my race gear and check out the wasp situation.  Take Back the Power!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Are You Faster Than a Chihuahua?

How about smarter than a wasp?  Because apparently I'm neither.  Took Ruby running with me for the first time a few mornings ago and she was hauling ass.  She was all business and pulling me the whole way.  We only went 20 minutes because it was warm and it was her first time.  But she's ready for more once it cools down some.  I think she may even be ready for some real hiking by fall.  So calm in the house but such a scrappy little thing outside.

Still battling the wasps.  Turns out the little bastards have teeth and can chew duct tape.  So I no sooner block off a hole with more duct tape than they chew another one or actually pull the tape back.  This morning I saw one gnawing on a piece of foam I'd stuck in one crack.  Chewed big chunks of it away and got in.  Home Depot man was wrong about the caulk being strong enough to keep them out and even worse they sell caulk type stuff specifically for wasps/bees/insects:  http://www.homedepot.com/p/GREAT-STUFF-16-oz-Pestblock-Insulating-Foam-Sealant-11034540/203282346  No idea if it works or why the Home Depot guy didn't suggest it and of course the Boulder store doesn't have any.  Would have to drive the 20 minutes to Louisville and hope the one remaining can is still there.  Or maybe it's time to admit defeat and call in the professionals.  Because those professional guys in the videos are wearing special suits that cover their heads and faces and I'm out there in shorts and a tank top and flip flops if I even bother with shoes.  I did start off with a heavy winter coat, pants and hat but that gets old super quick in 90 degree temps.  And all I'm armed with is a piece of duct tape that I slap down quick as I can then run like hell.  I have one more idea to try and then it may be time to call in somebody who knows what the hell they're doing.  And at the bare minimum I should probably buy some Benadryl just in case.

My race last weekend was postponed due to flooded conditions on the trails.  We've been have a super hot, super dry summer except for when I have a race in the mountains.  Oh well, lost a week of training to tapering because the storm didn't come through until the day before the race so didn't know it was postponed until late afternoon on Friday.  On the other hand maybe a little bit of extra rest isn't the worst thing in the world.

Sunday morning at around 10:15 I heard sirens heading for the general direction of the Ironman bike course.  LOTS of sirens.  I knew it wasn't good.  A woman swerved into traffic and was hit by a car and did not survive.  Terrible tragedy.  Lots of blame and finger pointing going around, especially at the race director but really it's just a terrible accident and a risk of competing on a 60 mph highway that's open to traffic.  The bike lane was separated from traffic by traffic cones and the woman swerved out of the cones and into a car.  Impossible to know exactly why but a likely scenario is that she was trying to pass some riders and another rider in front of her pulled out in front of her also trying to pass someone and cut her off so she swerved into traffic.  Though this is pure speculation.  Terrible tragedy and the fourth cyclist killed in Boulder County since late May.  Another one of those deaths was on a road I also travel very frequently both in the car and on my bike.  I've ridden that stretch of US 36 where the Ironman cyclist was killed a zillion times as well since it connects my house to some Open Space trails.  I long ago stopped doing long rides on my road bike and this past winter I stopped riding on US 36 to get to dirt roads on my mountain bike choosing instead to drive to a trailhead and pick up the dirt roads from there.  Traffic on that road has increased significantly as well as the number of distracted drivers.  I see cars drifting in and out of the bike lane all the time and all over town, not just US 36.  I rode 2 miles to my office and was nearly taken out by a school bus that drifted into the bike lane.  I've come to the conclusion that bikes and cars in the same roadway are incompatible and it's just not worth it, especially with the Too Many People thing we have going on as well as all the cell phone zombies.

I think today is meant to be our last day in the 90's, should be cooling off to the 80's but I'll believe it when I see it.  Looking forward to fall and runs/hikes with Ruby and maybe even starting some agility training with her.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

You Knew It Was Going to Come Down to Duct Tape

Yeah I know, you're sick of the freaking wasps.  Believe me, so am I.  But I think victory is finally mine!  And all thanks to duct tape.  This morning there were more wasps in the trap and still some hovering around the access point so I wondered if they'd found a way in.  So I added more duct tape to the t-shirt/duct tape combo and after an inital swarm I seem to finally have peace at my door.



No gasoline or explosives or toxic chemicals or hippy dippy concoctions, just good old fashioned duct tape.  And a sticky wasp trap for the stragglers.  I've seen a few random wasps buzzing around the yard but so far nobody coming or going from the access point.  Hopefully by tomorrow they'll be totally gone.

In the meantime I put up a little barrier so no birds or dogs end up with sticky wasp trap stuck to them.  Because if I still had Strummer he'd totally end up with sticky wasp trap stuck to him.  In fact no way this would be enough barrier to keep Strummer out but for my current pack of Good Dogs this is fine.


Now, the question of the day is, do wasps make honey?  The internet has mixed reviews on this question but I'm with the 2 sensible guys here.



Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Ah Taper Week and More Waspmageddon

I've got a race this weekend which means I'm tapering which means plenty of time and energy to do myself a mischief.  My wasp traps came today so I'm back to Waspmageddon.  Managed to block off their access to their lair with a t-shirt and duct tape and put a trap right at the entrance but man they are PISSED and so far they're not falling for the trap.  Thankfully no people or dogs have been stung so far, other than my two previous stings before I started my war.  I'm starting to have the feeling this is going to turn out as badly as Iraq.  Or Viet Nam or Afghanistan, or whatever ill conceived U.S. aggression you like. 

YouTube is filled with all sorts of unhelpful advice mostly involving rednecks and gasoline/explosives or elaborate gizmos requiring soldering irons and knowledge of geeky electronics.  Or hippy traps made of apple cider vinegar and dish soap.  Never mind the horrifying videos of wasp swarms and the queen.  Because the queen is terrifying huge.  I had no idea and I wish I could unsee it.

Then there was the guy who ran his shop vac at the nest access point and gathered up around 1000 of them (by his estimation).  This sounded like a great excuse to get a shop vac until I got to the part where he said he ran the thing for 3 hours.

I could go back out there with the garden hose and a spray bottle of dish soap/water mixture but this is a slow, tedious, dangerous operation that maybe kills about a dozen before you lose patience and get too hot in your winter clothes that you're wearing to avoid getting stung a few days before your race.

I guess let's look at a pretty sunrise picture at the Rez and hope for an early snow.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

More Ruby and Waspmageddon

I'll get some better pictures of her but we have Waspmageddon going on in the back yard so these will have to do for now.



She's turned out to be a dream of a dog, such a good girl.  I can't find any fault with her.  She has a super high prey drive so training a recall around prey will prove challenging but otherwise she's super sweet, good temperament around other dogs though she is starting to get excited when she's on leash and she's other dogs posturing at her or behaving out of control.  Mostly though she ignores them and/or throws off some calming signals.  Gets along with Lola no problem.



And even at 15 3/4 years old, Lola suffers no fools.



She's 2 months out from her knee surgery, had her final x-rays and they looked good.  One more month of building up strength and she's good to start jumping on the furniture again and doing more strenuous things.  It's so hot right now that it's not like anybody wants to be running around doing anything crazy anyway.  We're having a typical summer but it feels hot compared to the past couple few summers which were so much milder.

Ruby loves her roll arounds.



I've not been doing much training with her, partly because she doesn't need much, partly because of the heat and partly because of her surgery recovery.  I've been working on having her circling a cone because this was part of her surgery rehab exercises anyway.  I borrowed Silvia Trkman's 'Cik and Cap' video from a friend but we're still stuck on circling the cone.  I started off luring this because she had to do this for rehab and no way was she going to offer it but now I'm working on shaping, waiting for her to offer it.  This is going slowly, she doesn't understand the concept.  I've been working on other shaping tricks as well, having her circle the legs of a chair, interacting with a very small box, high five.  She's happy and eager to train, she just doesn't get it yet.  Could be my shaping skills as well.  Aside from being rusty it was never one of my strengths anyway.  Once the weather cools off I'll start working on shaping her to tug and play with toys.  Right now she'll grab a toy and tug only when she's in the mood and this is mostly right before or after meal times and before we go for walks.  She LOVES walks, gets so excited when she knows she's going out.  She's going to be a great running partner because she seldom stops to sniff or mark, just keeps trotting for the whole walk, nose to the ground but moving all the time.

So thankful for her, she's just what we need right now.



Now I'm off to continue my battle with the wasps.  Spent two hours this morning driving around Boulder and Louisville try to get sticky wasp traps.  Two Home Depots, one Lowe's, and two hardware stores later and we still came up empty.  Apparently everyone else in Boulder County is also having Waspmageddon and those sticky traps are the only thing that work.  Came home and ordered them on Amazon with a few mouse clicks.  Duh.  Though we were hoping to buy some to have right away.  At least Ruby got to come and walk around all the hardware stores.  She even got snugs and a cookie from a worker at McGuckin's, Boulder's expensive but has everything hardware store.  Well everything but sticky wasp traps anyway.  Jonny said there were loads the other day when he bought the one trap we have but all gone by today.  Too Many People.  Not enough sticky wasp traps.

The wasps are getting in between the siding and the foundation wall right near the corner of the house shown in the photo above as well as to the right of the door.  This makes getting the dogs in and out problematic and I was stung again as well just trying to leave the house for a dog walk.  So I caulked up the cracks and then we had a traffic jam of wasps on either side of the door because they could still get in but not as easily.  They are not happy about this situation and now it's even harder to get out the door and they're getting in the house when we open the door.  So we put a trap near the traffic jam and this killed a LOT of wasps.


But they're still getting in and out so I need to add a bunch more caulk which is hard to do because they're angry as a horde of swarming wasps.  And even if I do manage to get a good seal there's still the problem of the wasps that are locked out and my current trap is obviously very full.  So Waspmageddon continues, at least until Tuesday when my new traps arrive.  Poor dogs, they can't enjoy their yard.  Ah well, snow will be here soon, right?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Xterra Mountain Champs (Beaver Creek)

I don't know why I keep signing up for this.  I did a pre-ride of the course 2 weeks before and had registered the day before the pre-ride.  After the pre-ride I joked that it's a good thing I'd registered already.  The bike is hard and long and steep and hard and up at a high elevation (high point of 9184') and when you're done you get to do a super hard run that's also steep and up at a high elevation (high point of 8872').

I had a good swim this year, water was supposedly 66 degrees but felt warmer, didn't even need swim socks.  I managed the crowds o.k., found some feet to draft off of early on.  Pace was 1:51/100 yds. this year compared to 1:48/100 yds. which added up to a difference of 19 seconds.

Bike went well, better than the pre-ride which always seems to be the case.  The race was super competitive this year because Xterra cancelled 2 of the 4 Regionals in the U.S. that qualify you for Worlds so lots of super fast, super competitive people showed up to Mountain Champs this year.  Normally I end up riding with somebody but this year I was on my own from just past the first aid station.  It was a very strange feeling.  My bike time was approximately 2 mins. slower than last year.  Can't tell exactly because I'd had some issue with pushing the wrong buttons on the Garmin last year.

The run did not go well and that is an understatement.  It was much hotter this year - high 70's to low 80's, maybe hotter - and the heat combined with the elevation left me dizzy and nauseous right from the start.  The first climb is steep and long and to call what I was doing 'hiking' or even 'walking' would be an exaggeration.  I'm not sure what to call it.  But it was slow and hard and after a mile and a half or so I wondered if I should turn around and find my way back.  But that would be 3 miles total and the run was 6 and I'd already come so far so I figured I may as well gut it out.  And gut it out I did.  One hour and 44 minutes to complete 5.5 miles for a whopping pace of 18:53 min./mile which is probably the slowest I've ever run a race.  Last year was 1:27:31 or 16:16 min./mile and I know I was struggling then as well.  But as I recall the dizzy, nauseous, I'm maybe going to pass out feeling didn't come until the second climb.  It was cooler though, a storm front blew through and it was cloudy and cool and I think even a few raindrops came here and there for the first half of the run but then the sun came out for the second part and I think that's when I started feeling really bad.  My guess is that the heat and altitude combined with the length and difficulty of the race and my issues with low blood pressure don't make for a great race for me.  Not sure if I'll go next year.

I did have fun though for most of the race and for the first time I drove up on Friday and spent the night.  Some women invited me to share their condo and it was so fancy and a couple minutes walk to the start line.  They turned out to be really nice and it was fun to meet some new people, especially fellow Xterra women.  There aren't many of us out there, especially in the 45-49 and 50-54 age group.

And the trails were beautiful.  Still so lush and green up there though the trails were dry and dusty compared to when I did my pre-ride a couple of weeks previous.

Not many T2's are as beautiful as this.



And the finish line.



Next race is Xterra Winter Park in 2 weeks and I get to go up there tomorrow to pre-ride.  Let's hope I have enough legs left.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Gone

RIP Strummer, March 2005 - June 24, 2016


Had to say goodbye to my bestest buddy a week and a half ago.  Came up limping on 3 legs the Sunday morning after Xterra Lory, diagnosed with an inoperable tumor Monday night and gone on Friday.  There was a slim chance the tumor was an abscess so we'd been giving him antibiotics and pain killers since the vet assured us he was in pain though aside from not wanting to bear weight on the bad leg he seemed his perfectly normal self.  Tearing around the house and yard, barking, playing with his toys and the garden hose, full of himself, pure Strummer.  Then Thursday night his leg looked bigger and by Friday morning his leg started to explode in size, a big new lump around his hock, obviously not an abscess.  Still his crazy self though.  We'd been torturing ourselves all week over what to do.  He didn't seem in pain despite what the vet said but who can say with a dog like Strummer.  But after his leg blew up so quickly on Friday the decision was obvious.  Difficult, heart breaking but obvious.

Could not even bring myself to write about it until now.  Not that this is easy.

This photo came up as a memory to share on my Facebook the other day.


I hate Facebook.  Been avoiding it more than usual partly for this very reason.  Had to tell people about Strummer though, did not want to explain it over and over.  Not even really happy about writing about it now but I have to put something here.

What to say, what photos to post?  The task is overwhelming.  The whole story of his life with me is in this blog.  How to whittle it down to a single post?  Impossible.

The very last photo I took of him is in the post below, having his morning nap in the sun with Ruby on May 25, a crappy cell phone picture.  This photo below was taken 2 days prior with my point and shoot.  Not very interesting but I can't bring myself to pour through all the zillions of photos, not right now anyway.


He was such a force of nature, we were sure he'd live to 15, the only questions was whether he'd live to 16 or 17.  As such he'd been a bit neglected with Lola approaching 16 and having a noticeable decline in mobility and Ruby being a new dog and then having surgery, Strummer was being pushed to the background a bit and I'd been making efforts here and there to have time for him.  I'd been making plans for stuff to do with him this summer post agility career.  It turned out we never even had a final trip to the Rez for swimming, one of his favorite things aside from agility.  At least he was his crazy self right up until the end.  I suppose that's something.  But I'll never again name a dog after a punk rock icon who passed away suddenly, tragically and way too early while he was still putting out some of his best work.