Monday, August 29, 2005

Fat Tire Tri-Beerware for the Gimp & Rookies

Had a blast at the tri, couldn't have asked for a more perfect day or race. The race took place in scenic Lory State Park, a beatiful area nestled in the foothills above Fort Collins. The swim was 750 yards (a bit short from the 825 yards last year since the water level was lower and we started further down the beach) in quiet Eltuck Bay off the larger Horsetooth Reservior. The bike was 12 miles on some tight, twisty singletrack and the run was 3 miles including a brutal 500 yard climb in 1/2 mile up a steep trail then a twisty descent down the other side of the hill with steep swithbacks every 4-6 steps or so in some places. I did the full Monty last year but for obvious reasons I only did the swim portion this year and left the hard work to my relay teammates, Jeanne and Leslie.

Last year the swim had a mass start with all 300 people in the water at once. Looking down on the narrow bay I couldn't believe we all fit in there and I felt like maybe my panic attack was justified. This year there were 4 waves and I was in the last wave which was perfect for me since it meant I wouldn't have to worry about fast people coming up behind me. For some bizarre reason everybody lined up spread out across the width of the bay rather than in a tighter pack nearer the buoys. I wasn't going to complain though since it meant I got a spot right next to the line of buoys with only 2-3 people in front of me. The water was beautiful, 70 degrees or so and I was plenty toasty in my full wetsuit. I warmed up a bit before the start and felt pretty good about things. The course was an out and back and my plan was to start off slow to avoid panicking, get into a rhythm on the way out then pick it up on the way back. This worked out great, I passed some people right at the start, found someone to draft off and relaxed into a nice pace without any major freak outs. After a few minutes I decided to pick it up and I had to weave a bit to pass people but it wasn't too crowded. I swam a fairly straight line right next to the buoys and the turnaround came up way quicker then I thought it would. On the way back I picked it up as much as I could, passing people from the previous wave and then the wave before that. By the time I was near the shore I could see about 15-20 people from the very first wave! For those of you that struggle with the swim as I did when I first started out you can imagine what a cool feeling that was. I went tearing up the beach while everyone else was struggling with their wetsuits or just catching their breath and passed even more people but that's the advantage of being in a relay. Still, I usually run into transition, I'm not sure why so many people were walking. Leslie ran the final stretch up the beach with me, urging me on and I passed the chip off to Jeanne, our cyclist. Final swim time was 16:46 and that included a run up the beach to the timing mat (time for the swim only was around 16:35 by my watch I think). This was good for 8/16 of all the relay people, including the men, and around 103/269 for the people doing the full tri. Not amazing but not terrible either, all things considered, and right about where felt I would be in a best case scenario (ie no panicking or getting kicked/blocked in).

This was the first time Jeanne had ever done a tri and I could tell she was a bit nervous about all the logistics of it. In fact, Jeanne had done a few mountain bike races some years ago but that was it for race experience so she wasn't sure at all what to expect and begged us not to be mad if she was slow. I told her we were all here for fun and not to worry about it. I passed the chip off to her in the transition area and yelled after her to 'have fun'. In her excitement she started riding her bike in the transition area, a big no no, but she caught herself right away and dismounted before exiting onto the course. Several other people were making the same mistake. Well, long story short, Jeanne was a madwoman on the bike. I missed taking her picture on the first loop because she was so much farther up in the crowd than I expected her to be. By the time she finished she'd worked her way up to around 20th woman overall, and that was with me starting in the last swim wave! She was totally amped up after her ride, excitedly telling me and her husband all the details of her allegiances and rivalries out on the trail and how she finally started getting aggressive about asking people to let her pass on the single track. Her final time was 1:06:09, good enough for 3/16 for the relay people (including men) and 15/119 for the women doing the full tri.

Our runner Leslie is a coworker of mine who decided to start getting in shape and training for triathlons last fall after she volunteered in her kyak for the swim portion of a tri and decided it looked like fun. She started with spin and weight training classes last fall with a bit of swimming thrown in. This spring she started up with running but was focusing most of her time on the bike. She did her first tri just a couple of weeks ago and had a great race. The run is only 3 miles but extremely challenging because of the steep trail portion and Leslie doesn't really do much trail running, certainly not on trails like that. I warned her ahead of time but she was still game. I didn't tell her about the 2 rattlesnakes and bear that a race employee saw while pre-running the course last year until after the race was over. I had convinced her to bring along Ernie, her Jack Russell Terrier because Ernie is always good for comic relief and the day is always so much better when there's a dog hanging around. Ernie is a bit of a momma's boy and he cried his head off the entire time Leslie was on the course. I found that if I rubbed a certain spot on his chest he would go quiet but as soon as I stopped he was crying again. I kept having to explain to people that he was missing his mommy who was on the race course so they wouldn't think I was torturing him. Leslie looked strong coming into the finish and as soon as she crossed the line little Ernie leapt into her arms and started licking her face much to the delight of the crowd. Leslie's time was 35:27, good for 11/16 of the relay people and excellent for someone who only started running a few months ago and doesn't really run all that often.

In the end we got 3rd place out of 16 relay teams and that included the men's only and co-ed teams! Not too bad for the gimp and rookies, never mind our ages (39, 41 and 45). Hardware was a bottle of Fat Tire beer with our placement on it but they only gave us one which I thought was pretty tacky. Jeanne let Leslie and I have it to display at work so I decided to make up an award for Jeanne and got a 3-d picture frame from Target. I'm going to make a little montage of all her photos and put the race/placement in there too.

I've never done a relay before and it was pretty fun though I was wishing I could have done the whole thing. I was still pretty tired when I got home, probably from being in the sun all day and I did do a lot of walking around. I fell asleep on the couch at 7:30 pm, a new PR for me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I've been too busy/tired to write in my blog and I guess that's a good thing. Last weekend's NADAC agility trial went much better than the USDAA trial the weekend before. The dogs still had some stress issues but overall were way more relaxed and had some nice runs. Lola finished up her Open Gamblers title which is something I've been working on since last summer so I was really pleased with that. I considered this a nice birthday present from Lola. Cody picked up his first Elite Gamblers Q in impressive fashion and almost got a second Q the following day on a really tough gamble but I was so shocked he made it through the hard part that I forgot to get in place properly to bring him back to me over the last jump and he ran past it without taking it. Even so, I was really pleased with what he'd done. I guess all the distance work we did while I was out of commission is paying off. Cody also managed a beautiful Elite Jumpers run on Sunday earining him a Q AND a first place. This is really something for a 7 year old dog, NADAC's Elite Jumpers times are notoriously brutal to make for the big dogs so to make time by 4 seconds AND win the class is a big deal. Lola's Jumpers run on the same course was almost as impressive but again I didn't manage her well after being shocked that she made it through the hard part and she had an off course on an easy part. Still, she was blazing fast and would have easily beat Cody's time.

Lola had a blazing Tunnelers run, earning a Q and third place. Lola is really fast because of her long legs and stride but her height is a disadvantage on a course made up only of tunnels since she has to duck to get into each tunnel. She lost out to two Aussies who didn't have to duck so far. I don't care too much about placements and I was thrilled she even placed at all since the class was huge. Cody came close to a Q on the same course but I screwed him up on an easy part at the second to last tunnel. It would have been his Open Tunnelers title too so I was mad at myself but part of it was due to not being able to run properly. I had quite a few problems this weekend with that because NADAC courses are very spread out and don't have many turns or technical challenges to them. You really have to haul ass and that kind of sprinting is really hard on me right now. Front crosses are also a problem so I had to make some creative handling adjustments to avoid them and they didn't always work out. It was interesting to experiment though. I managed 6 runs on Saturday and 10 runs on Sunday plus all the walking around, warming up and cooling down dogs, running back and forth between the tent and 2 rings, hauling crap, etc. My quads were screaming Monday morning but no more so than any other NADAC trial and the car crash muscles weren't doing too badly.

No more trials until October 1st. I want to spend some time working on motivation. I'm sure with the cooler weather things will improve but I don't want the dogs being so stressed out. I want them pulling my arm off to get in the ring.

I started running a couple of weeks ago. The doctor told me to start off with a mile and I laughed at her. I was having a hard time just running across the street. So she told me to split the walking and running for a mile until I could run a mile straight then add a second mile of run/walk, etc. It was hard going at the start, I couldn't go much more than 1/8-1/4 mile without walking but yesterday I managed over 3/4 mile without walking and I felt fine doing it. I also went to master's last night and managed 1800 yards, 40 minutes including some tough intervals. I'm at around 57 secs average pace per 50 yards which is way off the 50 secs I should be at but at least I can kind of keep up in the workouts. I even led the lane last night though I could tell the guy behind me was giving me a head start.

Believe it or not I have a race this weekend. I'm doing the swim leg of an off road tri relay in Fort Collins. It's only a 1/2 mile or so but I haven't done any open water swimming in weeks, I've swum in my full wetsuit only once this summer and this race was the site of one of my worst swim freak outs ever. I was going to swim at the Rez yesterday but found out they're only open on weekends now so I have no chance at an open water swim before Saturday. Should be interesting. Main goal, no drowning or panicking.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


I think I'm finally starting to understand golf. Not the game itself, but the frustration people feel while playing it and the incomprehensible desire to continue to expose themselves to that frustration weekend after weekend. For those that haven't guessed, I had an agility trial this weekend, my first trial since April and I hadn't done all that much training outside of my yard in the weeks beforehand so both the dogs and I were a little out of practice. The trial was sanctioned by USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) and both dogs are in the middle level of competition, called 'Advanced'. USDAA offers lots of different classes including regular standard agility courses with all the equipment and various 'games' which have different rules and use different pieces of equipment (eg, 'Jumpers' uses only jumps and tunnels). I entered only 2 classes each day since I wasn't sure how I would do with the running. I choses classes that were close to each other, early in the day so I could leave after a few hours but the trial ended up having a much larger entry than anticipated so they expanded to 2 rings and changed the running order and of course my events on both days ended up being split up by 5-6 hours which made for a lot of sitting around. Keep in mind that each event lasts less than a minute which just adds to the insanity. What sort of idiot sits around for 6 hours for the chance to run around a ring with a dog for 40 seconds? I suppose the same sort of idiot that gets up at 5:15 on a Saturday morning and drives an hour to run around in a park with her dogs when said dogs would be far happier chasing tennis balls in the park 10 minutes away from home. And I always thought golf sounded stupid.

Saturday started off cold, windy and rainy which was great for the dogs but crappy for the humans. I brought fleecy mittens and a headband as well as all my warm waterproof gear. The grass was wet but not soaked or muddy so I decided both dogs and I would be o.k. I had a regular old standard run in the morning and both dogs were a bit stressed. Cody popped out of the weave poles too soon and leapt of the A-frame without touching the contact zone at the bottom which are 2 things he does when he's stressed out. He also got pissed off at getting wet in the chute and stopped to shake himself dry after coming out. Lola missed the weave poles altogether and I had to send her back through them. She also bailed on the A-frame and the dog walk and ran for the off course A-frame at a later part of the course, stopping on top to admire the view and giving the judge a spectators a good chuckle but I was not amused as she's done this before. When she's stressed out she heads for the A-frame as soon as it comes into view. I figured this was not too surprising since it's been so long since both dogs have trialed and they both seemed distracted at practice this week. To be fair, their runs looked pretty good through the technical parts and I managed to get 3 front crosses in per run. This was hard on me physically though since it requires a quick, sharp turn and I was gimping pretty good after Lola's run. I decided to try to ease up on the front crosses for the rest of the weekend.

Five hours later I was recovered and we ran in the Grand Prix which is a qualifying class for nationals. Cody needed just one more qualifying leg and he could go, though I had no plans too, it's just fun to think you could. I could tell he wasn't too happy at the start line and 3 obstacles in he went off course then went off course again 2 obstacles later and we were whistled off the course. Lola managed to complete the whole course without getting whistled off but was sure there were some Border Collie eating trolls at the bottom of the A-frame and leapt off to avoid them again (and she had an off course). I wasn't exactly thrilled with the day's events but they could have been worse and I hoped Sunday would go a little better. At least I managed the physical challenges well enough.

Sunday we started off with Gamblers which tests the dog's ability to work at a distance from the handler. You also get to pick your own course, trying to earn as many points as possible then you send the dog over the 'gamble' which is a series of obstacles set at a distance behind a line that you can't cross. I picked a nice straightforward course for both dogs, aiming for fast and flowing rather than lots of points. One thing we have been working on a lot is distance, especially on the teeter since I have one in my yard. I'd also been working on sending the dogs ahead to a jump while I stand still and it was a huge stroke of luck that the gamble involved a teeter and sending ahead to a jump. Both dogs did beautifully except for Lola bailing her dog walk contact AGAIN and they each got the gamble easily. Cody ended up with second place, Lola got third and both got qualifying scores which means they count towards their titles. This finished up Cody's advanced Gamblers title so next trial we have to enter masters which is the highest level. The thought is a bit intimidating but I'm thrilled he finally made it into masters, even if it's only one event. Lola still needs one more Q to move up.

We then waited around for 6-6 1/2 hours for our standard run and I think we were all pretty fried by that point. The course was fun and challenging but Cody was fed up and popped out of the weave poles again. Usually I don't make him go back because it just stresses him out and shuts him down for the rest of the run but for some inexplicable reason I decided to have him redo them and it just frazzled him further. By the time we were 3/4 of the way around the course we'd had so many off courses and faults that the judge whistled us off. This hasn't happened to me since Cody's second trial many years ago. I figured it had to go better with Lola but it didn't really. We made it a few jumps further than Cody but still got whistled off and I had decided to leave the course anyway just before the judge blew her whistle. At some point Lola decided she'd had enough and took off for the A-frame again, stopping for another view at the top and causing the judge and loads of people to laugh once more. I was pretty aggravated to say the least. I don't often get upset when my dogs mess up (and it's usually my fault anyway), especially Cody because I had to work very hard just to get him to stay in the ring at competitions and I didn't let the dogs know but it was beyond frustrating to wait around for so long and have them be so stressed that they couldn't even get through the course. I don't mind little mistakes here and there but I hate it when the dogs don't seem to be having fun. And the best part is, I get to do it all over again next weekend. Somebody quick find me a nice thick brick wall I can bash my head against.

'Oh mercy me
God bless catastrophe'
-Alkaline Trio

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Home Again

Took my yearly trip home to the Chicago 'burbs for my cousin's wedding and managed to both survive and have a good time. My family considers arguing loudly about nothing to be great sport and though they don't mean any harm it gets to be a bit stressful for me and my husband since neither of us is used to loud, constant bickering, especially at 6:30 am. But I do love my family and after a while it all just turns into so much background noise.

I was hoping to get 3 swims in at various locations around the city but that never happened. I started out early on Thurs. morning at the Wilmette beach and it was absolutely freezing. I'd decided not to bother hauling my wetsuit and I'd neglected to ask the water temp. before handing over my $6.50 to get on the beach so I was stuck trying to gut it out in the cold water. I lasted about 15 minutes then felt myself shaking while I was swimming and decided to call it quits. Even though it was really hot & humid I couldn't get warm again until I got home and had a nice long hot shower. So I did a lot of walking on the Evanston/Northwestern lakefront paths instead. I couldn't believe all the people out running midday in the horrible heat and humidity and I was trying to remember how I ever did it when I was younger. I have to give credit to people who train through that for a fall marathon, you really have to be determined. Or crazy.

Jonny and I took some walks after dark looking for fireflies but we barely saw any. I suspect all the mosquito spraying and lawn pesticides have done them in. It's a shame because it's one thing I really miss in the summer, for some reason we don't have them in Boulder.

I tried looking for Eric but had no luck. He was last spotted in areas near where a friend I always visit lives and my friend knew exactly where all the places were so he offered to drive around while I looked out the window. He even knew of some halfway house type places where he might be that I would never have found on my own but Eric was nowhere to be found. A very selfish part of me was relieved since I wasn't so sure I really wanted to see him in the state he's probably in but a bigger part of me was seriously disappointed. My friend said he'd look out for Eric if I send him a picture and if he happens to see him at least say hi to him for me and let him know I'm thinking of him. Yeah, big deal, I know that's hardly going to begin to turn his life around but it's all I can do for now.

My friend took us for a tour of Millennium Park and I'll be honest, I didn't care for it. The outdoor theater looks like an enormous butthole and I don't get the big steel 'bean' at all. But it was nice to see so many people downtown on a Saturday night. I remember when downtown used to turn into a ghost town over the weekend.

I got a lot of good family gossip at the wedding which is wasted on me since I live out of town but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I sat next to my most interesting relative, a younger cousin who, among other things, had to be rescued from a Russian prison by Hillary Clinton when he was in college. Unfortunately, a wedding where you're sitting at a table with your dad is not the place you can exactly share your most interesting stories.

Meeting up with the Chicago Tapir crew on Suday night after the wedding was fun and a nice break from the madness of my family. Even Jonny, who isn't terribly fond of socializing with complete strangers, said he had a great time.

The best part about coming home from vacation is picking the dogs up from the kennel. Both of them went crazy when they saw us and poor Lola couldn't stop barking. She had to tell us off for ditching her. When she got home she ran laps around the house and collapsed onto the floor, rolling on her back with her long legs in the air, so happy to be home. We took both dogs for their regular walk around Wonderland Lake so they could check their peemail and were greeted with a sign warning us that part of the Foothills Trail that branches off from Wonderland was closed due to an outbreak of Bubonic Plague in the prairie dog town that borders the trail. Yep, it's great to be home.