Monday, January 24
Tonight at master’s I felt like I was turning into a pool nazi. A guy insisted on leading the lane but it was a really complicated workout and he couldn’t keep track of what we were supposed to do and he couldn’t get the intervals right. The woman behind me was losing her mind andI was pretty frustrated too. The coach had even written it down for us and he still couldn’t keep it straight! I had to keep telling him when to go and what to do. Finally the woman behind me and I agreed I should lead and we had to pressure him to step down. On the one hand I hate to take these workouts too seriously and be rude to people but on the other hand there’s n opoint in doing them if you don’t follow what the coach has laid out. I hate leading the lane, especially when it’s such a complicated workout but in the end I managed to keep it together somehow. 3100 frustrating yards.
Tuesday, January 25
Master’s again tonight. I don’t think I’ve ever gone twice in a row before but my regular Thurs.workout is cancelled and I really want to swim twice this week. I ended up having to lead the lane again and I felt fine for about 45 minutes then I was just dead in the water and had to drop behind. I think 2 days in a row is just too much for me. My hamstrings were still a little tight from the weekend’s long bike ride which wasn’t helping.
Wednesday, Jan. 26
Standard 3 mile trail run ‘round Wonderland Lake with Lola.
Thursday, Jan. 27
A repeat of Wednesday. Yes, I’m stuck in a rut.
Friday, Jan. 28
Saturday, January 29
Today is a big day for Lola. I’m taking her for a herding instinct test to see if she’s any good at sheep herding. This isn’t something you can really train, a dog either has the instinct or they don’t. Lola does all the classic Border Collie herding moves, ie crouching, stalking, giving ‘eye’, circling, etc. but she’s never had the chance to show off her moves on actual sheep. I’m a little nervous about this. I’m a city girl, I spent the first 6 yearsof my life in an apartment and I know nothing about sheep. Will she get kicked/stomped/trampled? Will I get kicked/stomped/trampled? How much can you provoke a sheep before they bite? Exactly how much sheep poop will I have to step in? And the herding people are weird to say the least. They yell and whistle and wave big sticks around. Will poor Lola freak out? I don’t have time for another dog sport but I’m curious about Lola’s possible herding talents and I feel like I’m denying her the one activity that she’s been programmed by breeding to do.
I take her for a 6 mile trail run in the morning to take a bit of the edge off her. I’m guessing her first reaction when she’s set loose on the sheep will be to rush at them straight on barking and snapping out of over excitement. This is NOT what you want but I’m thinking that once she gets it out of her system she’ll calm down and the herding thing will kick in. I figure if she’s had a good run she’ll calm down much easier.
The farm is about 50 minutes away and Lola naps most of the way. When we get there she seems remarkably calm even though there are lots of other keyed up dogs waiting their turn at the sheep as well as some dogs in a large field doing actual herding. An enormous Rottweiler is guiding a large flock around a big field while the instinct test is taking place next door in a small pen with just 3 sheep. It turns out these sheep have either their upper or lower teeth removed (can’t remember which) and for some reason they supposedly don’t kick. The woman conducting the test clearly knows what she’s doing too so by the time it’s our turn I’m feeling better about things. She tells me it will be easier if we start out with just her in the pen and me outside which is fine by me. Lola charges the sheep while barking & snapping as predicted and the woman keeps her from actual contact through body language. After a few charges Lola runs off sniffing around the pen, stops to pee, runs over to me-all classic signs of stress. Then she charges the sheep again, then runs off and repeats. It becomes clear that she’s actually scared of the sheep and the whole experience is just stressing her out. The woman agrees but tells me we’ll give her a chance to calm down and try again. I agree but I’m not optimistic. Lola came to me with some fear issues as an 8 week old puppy. I did a lot of work with her as a pup and she’s come a long way but it’s hard to fight genetics and I’m afraid her default response to new things will always be fear barking (and snapping if I let it get that far). Her second test goes much the same. The woman leashes Lola and tries to get her to just sit still near the sheep so she can see they’re not scary. She dutifully sits but doesn’t look thrilled and one of the sheep starts snorting and stamping its foot, defeating the purpose.
After the test the woman asks me what I think rather then telling me outright that my dog is crap at herding. Many people are sensitive about their dogs so she’s probably hoping I’ve realized the obvious and I’ll save her having to say negative things. I spare her the discomfort and tell her I don’t think Lola & sheep will work out. It’s clear to both of us that Lola is scared and though we could try working through this I don’t see the point and she agrees. Lola will have to stick to herding tennis balls and stalking squirrels & prairie dogs.
Sunday, January 30
I wake up this morning to several inches of snow on my deckand a report of 8 inches of new snow at Eldora, the nearest ski resort to Boulder just 45 minutes away. I’ve only been skiing once this winter and that was in North Boulder park going in circles on fairly flat terrain. My husband and I decide to pack up the skis and head up the canyon. There’s a fresh layer of snow on the trees and cliffs in the canyon, very beautiful, but miraculously the roads are clear. When we get to Eldora it’s snowing very lightly but the sun is out, there’s no wind, it’s ridiculously mild and there’s loads of fresh snow. Perfect conditions!
Eldora is a wintertime mecca for off season triathletes and cyclists in part because skate skiing uses many of the same muscles as cycling. Also the Nordic trails at Eldora are some of the toughest in the country due to the high altitude (pushing 9000 feet) and extremely hilly terrain. I spot a mountain biker I know as I approach the Nordic center to buy my trail pass and I have to avoid her by going the long way around and climbing up a snow bank. She’s the most boring person on the planet and she’s clearly done with her skiing so if she sees me she’ll start talking non-stop about nothing for 45 minutes (if I’m lucky) and I’ll never get away. I wish I had a cell phone to warn my husband but thankfully she’s yakking away to some other poor victim and he spots her first and avoids her as well. Phew!Some of the skate skiers are really obnoxious, going really fast and taking up the whole trail with their big long poles and wide stride. There are a couple of the beginner loops where most of them go because they can do laps and get some speed going while also getting some good hill climbs in. They congregate at the trail junction and you can hear them going on about their training regimes while their heart rate monitors beep away. We avoid those trails and go for the quieter ones. My favorite trail has been closed for several years due to a dispute with a private landowner but this year they must have worked it out because the trail is open. There’s no skate skiing allowed on this trail as it’s too narrow and heavily wooded and it feels more like a back country experience than being at a ski resort or a winter triathlon training camp. You have to go down a really long steep hill called Deadman’s Gulch to get to it and this scares mostof the families and novice skiers away so it’s pretty quiet. There are a few stream crossings and my husband takes one of them too fast and nearly ends up in the drink.
Toward the end of the loop the snow starts coming down heavier and I pick up the pace because I don’t want to have to drive home down the canyon in a blizzard. I usually dread having to climb up Deadman’s Gulch but today it goes quickly. All that trail running has really been paying off. By the time we get to the parking lot the mountains have disappeared and we’re engulfed in a thick fog. I’m glad I wasn’t skiing on the regular ski mountain or on a chair lift when the front came in. We were out for about 2 1/4 hours and I’m hardly tired but I know I’ll be feeling it tomorrow. It was worth every sore muscle I’m likely to have.