Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parkour Classes 3, 4, and 5

I'm loving Parkour, so much fun but hard for me.  Physically demanding and many things outside my skill level and comfort zone which is all the more reason to continue to pursue it.

Class 3 was learning to do a handstand.  Supposedly we learned to do cartwheels too but the instructor never called them that.  We learned pirouettes as well which are a way to bail from a handstand.  I'm a long way from getting the handstand but it long been on my list of things I want to learn so I was excited that it was part of class.  I can sort of, kind of do a cartwheel in one direction but the other direction is kind of hilarious.  Nothing approaching a cartwheel.  I sort of remember this was the case when I was a kid as well.

Then we worked on some jumping skills, jumping onto things using a monkey plant, and jumping off of things.

This video shows a conditioning exercise but the first part of it, jumping up on the wall hands first then standing up, is the monkey plant part.

We had the substitute instructor again and I have more trouble understanding him than the regular teacher but I worked out that I just need to know which hand goes where, which foot goes where and if I asked him he gave me a good explanation.  I wasn't the only one confused on this front so it was good that I asked.

Class 4 focused on balance and jumping.  First we worked on balancing on rails on the ground and this is way more difficult than it sounds, much harder than a balance beam.

It took a while but I started to get the hang of it.  So much you can do on a bar on the ground, I ordered a shower grab bar from Amazon and I'm going to find some wood in the garage so I can practice at home.  If I can learn to walk on a smooth, slippy round narrow bar imagine how easy a stream crossing on a wet log will be when I'm trail running?  Plus it's so good to work on balance as you get older, such a bad thing to lose.  And I have ended up in the creek a couple of times so this skill will be invaluable to hiking as well as trail running.  Can't wait until my bar comes, should get here tomorrow and then the fun begins.

Then we worked on jumping.  High squat jumps seeing how high up we could get our knees.  Then broad jumps, seeing how far we could jump.  Then jumping up onto low vault boxes (maybe 1 1/2 feet high or a little higher?) and jumping from one box to the other.  That felt like a huge accomplishment, before this class I was struggling to do box jumps onto something just 6" high.  It's amazing what learning a little technique can do.  I was struggling with jumping from a higher box to a lower box that was a distance away.  Not sure why, totally a mental thing but the instructor encouraged me and moved the box a little closer so I was able to do it eventually.

Very fun class and for the first time I wasn't sore for 3 days afterwards.

Class 5 last night was vaults.  I almost didn't go because it was snowing and the roads weren't fabulous, big multi-car pile-ups on some of the highways, but I took some quiet roads to avoid rush hour traffic and drove like a granny and I was fine both ways.  The 12 minute trip there took about 16 minutes so no big deal.  SO glad I went, vaulting is very very fun.  I was skeptical at first, wasn't sure how much of the vaults I'd be able to do but the instructor broke it down into easy steps and I could do most of it.  By the end of class some vaults were easy but others I hadn't quite gotten the hang of yet.  Mostly I need to practice and convince myself that I have the leg strength to get over.

The Step Vault was the easiest for me and the one I can do the best.

Still working on the Kong Vault.  I'm still having to do a Monkey Plant, ie landing with my feet on top of the wall rather than jumping over without my feet touching.  Again, I need to get to a point where I feel like I have the strength to get over.

This video shows a Kong Vault and the progression to it.

Also not quite there with the Lazy Vault.  I think I got to the point where I had to put just one foot down rather than my butt but it's hard to remember.  We covered so much.

Then there was a vault similar to the Lazy Vault but with the opposite leg coming up first.  I think it was called a Flair Vault but I can't find any video so maybe I've got that wrong.  We didn't do too much with that so I didn't get very far.

Now I need to build a vault box so I can practice.  More Human Agility Equipment to build.  Who says it all needs to be for the dogs?

Only problem is all the snow.  So much snow.  Asstons of snow and more coming.  Maybe I can build a vault box out of snow.  Or maybe that would end badly.  In any case I'm so sore this morning, in addition to all the vaulting we did Tricep Push-Ups for part of our strength workout.  Because regular push-ups aren't hard enough.  Anyway, SO sore today, shoveling the snow off the driveway is going to be enough of a challenge.

Next week we work on Tics Tacs or bouncing off of walls.  Soon Strummer and I will have a lot in common.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Digital Kidnappers

The internet grows ever creepier.  Several months ago I watched an interview with Jamie Bartlett, author of 'The Dark Net', and found the whole thing fascinating and disturbing.  Buying drugs on the Silk Road, groups that encourage anorexia and suicide, neo-Nazi freaks and so forth.  So far disturbing is winning out and I'm not tempted to read the book but there is an element of fascination/staring at the car crash to the weird sick things people get involved in and how easily they get there.

Which brings me to last night's news report about digital kidnapping or baby role playing.  People steal photos of other people's babies and repost them and pretend that they're theirs on social media.  Supposedly it's mostly teenagers engaging in this but still, so creepy and sad and disturbing.  From the news report:

"BabyRP is a growing online community that is mostly made up of teen and tween-aged girls. There are even accounts that act as fake adoption agencies with made up backstories for each photo. Users compete to adopt the picture or role play in the comments section, often typing in "baby talk." Some accounts are more disturbing than others, with users obsessing over naked babies or breast-feeding."

I know, I shouldn't watch the news.

This got me thinking about my own blog.  Because I promise you if people are stealing baby photos they're also stealing dog photos.  If you post photos publicly in a blog you have to realize that they're going to get stolen.  I'm not a professional photographer so as long as my photos aren't being used for nefarious reasons I'm not going to make myself crazy over where my photos end up.  I'm careful about the sorts of photos I post and leave it at that.  Nonetheless the thought of someone constructing a fake life around my dogs is creepy so I did a reverse search on some of my photos and sure enough I found one being used.  At first I clicked on the site but it was taking a while to load and as it was loading I realized it looked sketchy so I quickly closed the window and decided not to go there.  A more generic search brought up communities of people who go on the internet and pretend to be dogs themselves.  After that discovery I decided I was happier living in ignorance about the whole thing.  If some sad teenager wants to pretend that Strummer is theirs, well, all I have to say is she should be careful what she wishes for because he may end up on her doorstep and then she'll be uber sorry.

I didn't dig too deeply into this because again, creepy, I sorta don't want to know.  It seems most of the dogs being poached for this are purebreds and while Strummer is purebred he doesn't look purebred so I'm guessing he's not a prime candidate.  Seemed like mostly Huskies, German Shepherds and a surprising amount of Border Collie/herding dogs were being used.  Also a lot of my photos are taken in the mountains, on trails, in the snow, places that won't work if the kid lives in Kansas or Florida.  They probably go for more generic backgrounds.

Anyway if you keep a blog it's something to think about.  The news article gives directions for doing a reverse search of your images so you can see if they turn up anywhere else.  It also suggests getting an app for putting a watermark on your photos.  Personally I can't be bothered with this but it's something to consider and if the situation turns super creepy I'll probably just stop posting photos of the dogs.  If I had kids I wouldn't post their photos publicly at all but maybe I'm more paranoid than your average mommy blogger.

Think I'll go over to YouTube and see if I can find some kitten videos to wash the ick away.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Strummy and I had a DOCNA trial last weekend.  Very small entry thanks to some big AKC trial in Denver, one of those deals where they have the beauty contest and the agility on the side and who knows what all else.  In any case it made for short, fast paced days at the DOCNA trial which is just how I like them.  On Sunday I was able to sleep in, get 3 runs in and be home by 11:30, just as the first of the flurries of an incoming snow storm were starting.  That's my kind of agility trial.

I was not so happy with the courses though, especially when Sunday's courses were slight variations of Saturday's courses.  I know, every DOCNA trial I bitch about the courses and yet I still enter.  Hard to turn down a trial that's a 17 minute drive though, especially when there are no other trials and not much to do in winter and Strummy loves it so much.

We had some great runs and some not so great.  Several times Strummer flipped away from me to take an off course obstacle.  It's happening more frequently lately and happened at the seminar too.  Tracy said he's very 'subtle', something I've always known and struggled with.  If I don't call his name soon enough to cue convergence and his line takes him over the opposite side of the mid-line of the bar, he continues on his line even if I'm running the other way.  I have to be so precise when I handle him.  This is even more so on the straightforward yee-ha courses.  I have a tendency to abandon him in an effort to keep ahead.  Tracy helped me with this at the seminar but it'll take a while to become more automatic.

Saturday's Runs (Standard, Snakes & Ladders, North American Challenge)

Sunday's Runs (Standard 2 & 3 and Time Gamble)

The flipping away is obvious on the NAC run on Saturday's video (last run on video) and on Standard 2 on Sunday's video (2nd run on video).  The course is nearly the same after the tunnel under the dogwalk and both times he's over the bar on the wrong side of the mid-line and takes the off-course A-frame, after jump 15 on the NAC map and after jump 13 on the Sunday Standard map below.  Saturday's Standard course was nearly identical to Sunday's Standard shown below and after going off course in the NAC I did call him to cue convergence and he got the turn no problem so on Sunday I was sloppy about it and once again he was off course onto the A-frame.

This could very well be our last DOCNA trial.  Strum turns 10 next month and is showing no signs of slowing down (he won one of his Standard classes by about 14 seconds and I believe was fastest dog of all heights/divisions) but you never know.  I'll probably skip the 2 summer DOCNA trials.  Last year the August trial had the same exact courses as the year before and I can't be bothered losing a summer weekend of training and/or fun in the mountains to risk doing the same course 3 years in a row.  It's not the judge's fault and DOCNA has really been phoning it in lately with the courses with them being either the same courses we've run before or very similar and similar courses within a weekend.  Money and time in the summer are too precious to squander on these repetitive courses so our next possible DOCNA will be in November when we're back indoors and there's nothing else on the schedule.  Provided Strummy is still running by then.

In the meantime our next trial is USDAA in March in a couple few weeks.  I wasn't going to enter because there's always a big spring snow storm and I either have to eat my entry or I end up spending money on a hotel when I live just over an hour away.  I hemmed and hawed and finally decided not to go but yesterday I was lamenting not having a trial until May when I got an email from someone last night looking for a last minute team.  In general my motto is, 'When in doubt say yes' so I agreed.  At least the club has a cheap hotel rate of $64 with the La Quinta so if I get stuck down there it's not too bad of an expense and the hotel is nice, I stayed there last year.  Should be fun and I'm looking forward to it - Team and Biathlon, my favorites.

We were able to sneak in a fun agility practice yesterday with our training partner before the incoming snow storm.  People get so wound up about storms around here and I'm guessing it'll be about 8 inches, not so atypical for the Denver area in February.  So funny coming from Chicago and seeing how people let the media wind them up about snow.  I made the mistake of stopping at the store at noon on my way home yesterday and wow, it was like Christmas, I had to drive around the lot to get a parking spot and I thought a fight was going to break out at one point.  You would think the Zombie Apocalypse was coming.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tracy Sklenar Seminar

I had a day and a half of International Handling with Tracy Sklenar at FRAT's annual seminar and it was very awesome.  I have a lot to practice.  Strum turns 10 next month but that doesn't mean he can't learn new stuff.  I finally understand what a Jaako turn is as opposed to a Ketschker, or at least my understanding of a Ketscher.  And I finally understand what a German Turn is.  And a Lap Turn, Reverse Spin (I was calling it Top Spin), Reverse Wrap.  So much jargon, I know, but it's nice to have words that make sense to me.  Tracy had explained everything clearly and I've got video of her doing some of the turns so I can get a good idea in my head of what they're supposed to look like.  She has a nice system of using letters of the alphabet to help you decide which turn you need. So for example an S-shaped turn would be a German Turn.  So easy to walk a course, think about the shape of the turn you want then know which turn to use.  Easy peasy.

I put together a montage of our runs and it doesn't look so bad but wow, going through the video it looks like I was struggling more than I realized.  To be fair I was choosing the most challenging handling options for us so I could get some help with them but still.  I had some physical things going on, especially on Monday (the later runs on the video).  Came home Monday after the morning session and had a not so fun day and night of fever chills/sinus pressure/brain fog.  Which explains why I was struggling with a simple blind cross in one of the exercises and hey, watch me do a reverse spin in the wrong direction on the video.  Sheesh, at least I had a reason and I was tired on Sunday and had a bad night of twitchy legs and constantly waking up in a sweat on Saturday so it had probably started on Saturday.  Didn't feel sick until I got home Monday though so didn't realize it at the time.  I don't think it was a virus, probably an endometriosis attack.  Had the genius idea a month ago that I no longer needed to take the birth control pills which control my symptoms.  Guess I'm not quite ready to give them up.  Started back on them on Monday night and by Wednesday I was able to see my clients again and felt totally back to normal.  Also had some pasta for lunch on Saturday which I'm sure didn't help, especially with the brain fog.  I've had pasta only 4 times in the past year, I was desperate for a quick lunch and Noodles was the first place I saw.  I'm usually good about packing my own lunch but I had a crazy day with clients suddenly wanting to come in on Friday then cancelling then wanting to come it, etc.  Didn't quite get to the store to buy salad stuffs.

Video Montage

The seminar was 2 weekends ago, had a DOCNA trial this past weekend and I'll post about that later as well as more parkour fun.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Falling is an Art?

Second parkour class was SO fun.  This week we focused on rolls, challenging but a great feeling when it went right.  Our regular instructor was there and he's great, explains things very well, breaks things down when things don't go right, gives great tips to do it better.  He's more into the old school version of parkour where it's all about strength and doing stuff on the ground and not so much the flashy spins and jumps.  Which sounds perfect to me, that's exactly what I'm looking for.  Strength, movement, fluidity.  Not really looking to jump off of rooftops.  Not yet anyway, we'll see how hooked I get on this stuff.

Here what the beginner roll looks like.

We did sideways rolls and backwards rolls as well.  Rolls with a jump from a small height with a little drop.  I opted out of the dive rolls, not feeling ready for those yet.  Then rolls into quadrupedal movements from last week.  So much fun and lots of ways to mix it all up and be creative.  In just 2 classes I know plenty of stuff though it'll take some practice to get the moves down so they're more fluid and automatic. 

Then some strength work.  Chin ups with scapula (shoulder blades) engaged and palms facing forward.  Very challenging.  I could only do 2 consecutively and we were supposed to do 5.  I usually do chin ups with palms facing forward but this position is not good for pulling yourself over a wall so I'll have to do more palms forward.  Something else to work on. 

So sore though, spent a fitful night with twitchy legs.  Probably a hydration issue, forgot to drink a bunch of water when I got home.  Hopefully I won't be as sore in 2 days as I was last week.  Glad I didn't try this during tri season.

Agility seminar this weekend so maybe I'll have some interesting things to pass on next week.  I've got a couple of working spots with Tracy Sklenar doing international type handling and I may audit a Loretta Mueller session, we'll see.  Have no idea about either instructor so it'll be interesting.  Supposed to be in the 50's and 60's over the weekend so I may get antsy and want to be outside instead of a dusty horse arena.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Parkour Take 1

I've been wanting to try parkour for years now but at the same time I've suspected that it's one of those things where the idea of it sounds better than the reality.  But one of my projects for the winter is to improve movement, range of motion, strength, etc. and not just for triathlon but for life in general.  I want to be able to move easily, smoothly, supple leopard-like.  I've been working with the functional movement specialist for range of motion, neuromuscular type stuff, etc.  I had 2 weeks of a set of exercises and now I've progressed to the next level.  I had some improvements from the tests she did 2 weeks ago though it felt to me like she wasn't pressing as hard though it could be that I did get better so it didn't feel as hard.  I'll go back in 2 weeks and hopefully that will be it.

As for the parkour, I finally decided to pull the trigger.  I went to watch a class first to see what was involved but the secretary had told me the wrong time so no beginner class was going on when I got there.  Instead I spoke with the owner, told him about my surgeries and bad knees and middle aged-ness and he assured me I'd be fine in the introductory class.  The instructor could modify things for me if there was something I couldn't do or I could sit out if I wasn't comfortable with something.  Sounded perfectly reasonable.

Until I got to class.  The class was huge for the size of the area we had to work.  Very cozy.  The instructor looked a bit overwhelmed and called another instructor over to help.  We started with a 10 minute warm-up that was mostly stuff I already do to warm up for running, no problem so far.  Then the instructor brought us over to an obstacle course that we were supposed to run.  And he was timing us.  No instruction and the only thing he let us practice ahead of time was a wall we had to run up then hoist ourselves over onto a platform at the top.  The wall is circled in the photo below.

Because this totally looks like something a 50 year old beginner with bad knees can do.

The instructor had to put his leg out for me to use a little for leverage on the practice run.

The course also involved balancing on these metal bars on the ground.

Here's a single bar

But we had more than one bar.  First we had to stand on one bar and jump to a second bar that was maybe 2 feet or so away.  Just far enough to be hard.  Then we had to walk across a line of the bars stacked end to end of each other.  I managed to stand on the first bar.  Just.  But when I jumped onto the second bar I couldn't stick the landing and ended up on my ass.  The instructor looked worried but I got up and was o.k.  Then I had a hard time staying on the rest of the bars.  I did make it up the wall on my own during the test but I skinned my knees.  There were tunnels to crawl through and walls to climb over in between all of this and those parts were fine.

Then once on the platform at the top of the big wall we had to climb down bars like the ones on the floor except they were on the wall.  I drew them in red on the photo below.  Then touch the black metal bar and you're done.  Except you have to make your way out of the foam pit which is not as easy or fun as it looks.  This photo must have been taken when they first put the foam in.  It is not so clean and shiny looking now.  Thankfully I was not being timed on how long it took me to get out of the foam pit.  And hopefully I won't end up on YouTube.

All of this in the first 20 minutes of class.  I was ready to go to the front desk and beg for my money back at that point because this was not at all what I had in mind.  But I stuck it out and the rest of class was great, exactly what I was hoping for.

We started off learning quadrupedal movement, or moving on the ground on all fours.

Basic Quadrapedal Movement

Quadrupedal Gallop

Ground Kongs

Quadrupedal Side Lunge

Crab Walk

Very cool stuff, I'm excited to practice it and I think it'll give me exactly what I'm looking for in terms of mobility, strength, supple leopard-ness.  Plus FUN.

We also worked on air squats, something I've been working on on my own but I was very happy for having some feedback.  Turns out I'm doing o.k. with them but can turn my knees out a little more.  For some reason I was getting light headed/dizzy when I'd stand up from them though.  Will have to watch that, don't want the embarrassment of passing out in class.  I have low blood pressure and often have issues with this when getting up from sitting for a long time or laying down but I've never had it before from squats.

Then we worked on jumping straight up and landing quietly in a squat.  Not sure I was doing that right, we didn't get a whole lot of instruction on how to land quietly.  Guess it's a trial and error type thing.  This is something I want to work on and get better at.  I think it'll help my running and save my knees.  Those parkour guys move like cats and that's my goal.  Supple leopard all the way.

Now if I can just get over the SORE.  My quads were sore and twitchy last night from the squats but at about 3:00 this afternoon the hurt settled into my arms and chest.  The quadrupedal movement works the upper body a lot more than I realized at the time.

The funniest part of the evening was when I first got there and was waiting in the reception area for class to start.  I saw an old co-worker of mine from my engineering days, a woman about my age who had quit to have kids.  She was there waiting for her kids and I had to explain to her that yes, I was there to take a class.  Because normal 50 year olds go to parkour gyms to pick up their kids, not to skin their knees and fall on their ass.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boulder Valley Fun in the Sun

Another day in the 70's and the Boulder Valley Trails are finally dry except for a wee bit of ice on Ice Hill.  So I dusted off the bike and hit the dirt.  I feel lucky to have these trails so close by.

I always love this view, so bucolic.

It's hard to see the prairie dogs in this photo but the trail goes right through a dog town and it makes me happy to hear their chirping.  City of Boulder got rid of the dog town by my house because the prairie dogs were getting down into the park next to the open space and hell hath no fury like a soccer mom worried that her prodigy will twist an ankle.  Never mind that the park was never meant to be used for soccer, it was supposed to be a buffer between the open space and the neighborhoods.  But in the land of rich people and politics the prairie dogs don't stand a chance.

Though one of the crazy buggers nearly took both of us out by running across the trail practically under my wheel.  Still not sure how I missed him.

Boulder Rez

Felt so good to be out on the trails on my bike.  I was even overheating at one point, I'm not acclimated to 70 degrees but it felt good to be sweating in the sun in nearly February.  One other bonus was that I was able to ride some of the little singletrack trails that are off the main path.  I don't go on those in the summer because of rattlesnakes.  I couldn't help watching out for snakes, had to keep reminding myself that they're enjoying their winter slumber.

Got home to a sassy Miss Lola.  She had some words for me.

And then she had a quick power nap.  Because that's how it goes when you're old.

She sprang back to life quickly enough when I busted out the goat leg bones from the farmer's market.  Love to see happy, peaceful dogs gnawing away in the sun.

Snow is supposed to return on Friday but this little break has been a special treat.  Love those little windows of warmth that we get in Colorado in winter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Feels Like Spring

We usually get a few warm dry days in January and this year is no exception.  T-shirt weather for our hike at Hall Ranch yesterday.

Trails were muddy in places but that just added to the fun.  No dogs allowed at Hall but sometimes it's nice to have a carefree hike without having to worry about crazy dogs.  It also makes for a less crowded trail.

Strum goes with most of the time so I don't feel bad about leaving him behind once in a while.  And he had a walk/hike before we went so he wasn't completely neglected.

In other news we have a serial killer in our neighborhood.  Jonny and I have come across three separate deer kills between us in the past few weeks.  Probably a mountain lion but could be coyotes.  The city removed an huge prairie dog town on the open space where there are lots of coyotes and they could be desperate for other food sources.  Whatever it is is killing at night when I'm seldom out so I'm not too worried but maybe it's time to get the BAU involved.