Sunday, July 30, 2006

Girls Gone Wild

Here's another clip from Regionals, my crazy run with Lola in the Speed Jumping Finals. This was the only clip the videographer gave me in real time (as opposed to slow motion, 1/2 time) so even though it's not the best run it's kind of fun since Lo looks like she's flying.


Busy weekend of mountain biking in Winter Park yesterday and 4 hour agility seminar today so I'm too hot, sticky & tired to write more.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Swimming and Biking and...Bears? Oh My

The Boulder Peak Triathlon can't seem to run without a hitch these days. Last year a man in his 70's died during the swim (heart failure due to heart disease) and 2 cyclists were seriously injured while descending steepy steep Olde Stage road (I believe one of them is now a quadrapalegic). This year they instituted a 35 mph speed limit which is the actual speed limit of the road and some people were disqualified for violating it. I've clocked myself at around 44-46 mph going down that hill and other racers flying by me like I'm standing still so I think this was a good idea though no idea how they'll uniformly enforce it the whole length of the hill.

This year no deaths or serious injuries occurred but a woman descending Left Hand Canyon at 35 mph collided with a black bear who clearly never learned to look left before crossing the road. The woman 'flipped over her bike and skidded along the road on her shoulders and back' but pulled herself together and finished the race in 3:06, pulling off a 48+ minute 10k. Not sure what I would do if it happened to me but I suppose that would get my adrenaline going.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Stick a Fork in Me

I'm done. I thought we all needed a break from agility this weekend and I really wanted to spend some time in the mountains. Saturday I rode up to Gold Hill which is a little mountain town above Boulder at oh, I don't know, maybe 8600 ft or so. I made a nice loop of it, climbing up Four Mile Canyon and heading back home down Sunshine Canyon. Usually I'll go up Sunshine, it's shorter at 9 miles vs 13 miles up Four Mile but it's way steeper and I'm still testing out my knee on the steep stuff. Even though I took the wimpy way up it was still horribly steep in some places and the dirt road was pretty loose. When I started the ride I had fantasies of continuing on to the Switzerland trail but to be honest I was lucky to make it to Gold Hill and very nearly turned around before getting there. The thought of ice cream at the General Store in town was the only thing keeping me going and when I got there all they had was crappy processed stuff that I couldn't bring myself to eat so I had to settle for an energy bar. Instead of hanging out at the store with the other cyclists I continued on to a nice viewpoint with great views of the Continental Divide. It was great to be climbing in the hills and flying back down again but I was so trashed when I got home. It didn't seem that hot-low 80's-but I think it took a bit of a toll on top of me having lost so much fitness. It took me 2:18, my record is around 1:45 and an average time is 2:00 so I have a good idea of where I'm at on the bike and, ugh, it's not good.

Sunday Jonny & I went to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking. It's not my favorite place because it's so darned crowded but there are a few trails I like and some of the scenery is spectacular so I'm willing to put up with the hassle of the place. This particular hike is on some of the most popular trails in the park so it was a pain at the start but most folks stop after a mile at Dream Lake, where the above photo was taken looking toward Hallett Peak (left) and Flattop Mountain (right). We continued on for another mile or so to Lake Haiyaha where we stopped for a nice lunch then continued on to Alberta Falls and looped our way back to the start. The picture of the bird was taken on the trail leading from Lake Haiyaha to the Falls. I'm not sure what it is, at first I thought Ptarmigan but I think it's too big so maybe some other kind of grouse. As for the people who hunt these things, you have got to be kidding me. This bird just sat there on the rock right next to the trail, I could have reached out, picked it up and stuffed it in my backpack with nary a fuss. I went right up to it to take the photo and several other groups of people passed by, took photos, etc. and the bird just stood there quietly mumbling to itself, completely unphased. She almost looked like she was mugging it up for the cameras (I'm assuming it was female due to the lack of bright colors but what do I know).

It was a beautiful hike and a nice day but 2 3/4 hours of hiking on top of yesterday is taking it's toll on my body so tomorrow I rest.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lights, Camera ...

Here's an experiment with video. This is a clip of my Grand Prix Finals run with Lola from USDAA Regionals. It's at half speed, we weren't that slow. You can see how much time she wasted on the dog walk and I lost some time due to sloppy handling at the pinwheel after the teeter and my bobble after the weave poles but an otherwise nice run.

Go to the link and double click the play button:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blister in the Sun

I'm an utter freak about doggie heat stroke so when I saw the forecast for temps. in the triple digits on Sunday I was on the verge of pulling the dogs from the NADAC trial I'd entered. In the end I talked myself into going, at least for the morning runs since Elite runs first and it wouldn't be too bad at 8:00 a.m. I figured I'd stay until it got horrible then leave and maybe come back for Lo's afternoon Tunnelers runs since she needs only one Q to qualify for Nationals and we'd have 2 chances.

Jumpers was first thing and it was already hot, maybe in the 80's with no breeze and full sun. Lo had a lovely clean run with no mistakes or refusals but was .28 seconds over time (huh??!!). She was going slower than normal because of the heat (and I wasn't pushing her) but she was hardly pokey. Course times are brutal in Elite Jumpers for the big dogs and I think it's the reason there are so few dogs left at the Elite level in NADAC. The Novice class was the size of Open & Elite combined, maybe bigger. NADAC's a great place to start a young dog but I think by the time you get to Open or Elite you're so fed up with the constant rule changes and ridiculous course times that you find somewhere else to play if you can. I'm an idiot so I've stuck around. Anyway, Cody somehow managed to knock a bar in his Jumpers class even though they were only 16" high as I was experimenting in entering him in vets. He jumps 22" in USDAA and rarely knocks bars so I don't know what happened. Otherwise a nice run and he seemed thrilled to be out there. I discovered he goes crazy playing in the hose so I was able to get him soaked and wound up before our run. I did this all day and it worked great. Finally something other than food to motivate him!

Chances (NADAC's mutated version of Gamblers) was way too difficult for both dogs, I just don't practice that kind of distance work but they were running great and having fun so I decided to stay for their standard runs.

Standard started at 11:00 a.m. or so and by that time it was in the high 90's but it's a dry heat, way different from the nightmarish humidity I'm used to in Chicago. I figured the dogs should be o.k. running for 40 seconds in the heat and they were. Lo had a Q and third place in one run and the other was beautiful but the stinker blew her dogwalk contact at the very end for the brazillionth time. Cody did the same darn thing in his run too (and blew the A-frame contact in his other run). ARGGH!!! Of course last night at class he was perfect, wowing all the novice students with his lovely contacts. I guess I should be glad he was excited and hyped up enough to blow a contact in that horrible heat but still it was frustrating.

I had to wait around 3 hours for Tunnelers and if it wasn't for wanting to get that last Q for Lola to get into Championships I probably would have called it a day. By the time Tunnelers started it was 100 degrees and to add insult to injury they were having Tunnelers as a 'Double Shot' which means you run the course, go through a couple of Tunnels that bring you back to the start and do it again with no break. 22 tunnels in a row in 100 degree heat is something to experience but next time I'm insisting they have defibrilators at the ready. Cody went first in Elite and managed to Q and get 4th place in both runs thus earning his Elite Tunnelers title. I was a little concerned about the course for Lola since there were 2 tunnels parallel to each other and she had to come out of one and turn 180 degrees into the other. Trouble was there was a tunnel staring her right in the face when she came out of the first tunnel, beckoning her to be sucked inside and she'd be committed to that tunnel way before she came out and saw me indicating the turn to the other. We've had trouble with this exact scenario before. I call to her while she's in the tunnel but it often doesn't help. Well, we pulled it off, she had a huge wide turn as she headed for the wrong tunnel but she pulled of it and came to me. You'd think on the second time through she'd know where she was going but it was no matter, she still turned wide. But it was fast enough to make Open course time (and Elite course time at that) so she got 2 Q's and first places and has a spot in Tunnelers at Championships so I was pretty happy!

There was only one dog that suffered heat stroke at the trial, a little Papillon that belonged to an instructor and very savvy dog person who was doing all the right things to keep her cool. The dog was rushed to the vet and is now o.k. but it just goes to show how serious the heat is for dogs even if you're being careful.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Grand Prix Finals Course Analysis

This was a fun but technical course with plenty of off course opportunities and many different ways to handle the tricky spots. For me, the hairiest part was jumps #10-13 then to the #14 tunnel. I opted to send Lola over 10 and 11 while I stayed on the landing side of 12, calling her to me then flipping her to 13. Some handlers pulled off a front cross on the take off side of 12 but I was worried about the off courses at 20 and 2 as well as the A-frame. When I tried this with Cody at practice I did indeed get off courses at 2 and 20. It's a good little exercise for practicing front crosses.

Here's a cool video showing the first and second place dogs Jaxon and Juice in the 26" height class running simultaneously (click on the link in the middle of the page):

The interesting thing to note is that both handlers chose different handling strategies and nearly every challenge on the course yet both have beautiful runs. Jaxon wins by .63 second even though Juice has much tighter turns in several places, esp. from the weaves to jump #16. Jaxon's a bigger dog and it seems his speed won out over Juice's tight turns. I think Juice normally runs in the 22" class but they've either got a spot or they're gunning for a spot on the World Team which means he needs to jump 26".

At the tricky spot at #10-#14, Jaxon's handler does a front cross on the landing side of #12, something an instructor had told me specifically NOT to do just a few days before the trial. I've had another instructor teach me how to do this cross so I do it on occasion but lately I've been having trouble with it and didn't want to risk it myself on this course. But it just goes to show that there are no absolutes in agility. Juice's handler does something similar to what I did. In general, handlers did all sorts of things at that location and lots of things worked (or didn't), it just depended on the team. The front cross on the takeoff side of 12 looked nicest if you could pull it off and keep the dog off the A-frame.

In the opening I stayed on the left of the obstacles the whole way to the chute, Jaxon's handler stays on the right the whole way and Juice's handler switches sides. I'll hopefully get my own video in a few days to see what it looked like but I think I lost a bit of time flipping her from 3 to 4 but I was more worried about off courses and staying on the right would have opened up the A-frame which is a big lure for Lola. Plus you've got 2 pushes from 2 to 3 then from 4 to 5 and you have to back cross the chute risking the dog coming out to the right on the wrong lead.

The #8 jump to the teeter was a place where some of the faster teams had problems. Some of those who stayed on the left calling the dog to the teeter had an off course to the A-frame since that's the dog's natural path. I had the same problem at an almost identical situation on another Grand Prix course so I opted for a front cross at #8 and a push to the teeter like Jaxon's handler. I'm not sure why you'd stay on the other side, maybe some thought it would make a tighter turn or maybe it had to do with how they were handling #10-13 but some top handlers fell victim at that location (Juice's handler pulls it off beautifully in the video).

Only a few dogs fell for the trap at the #14 tunnel to the weaves. There was plenty of time and space before the weaves to get in place to turn into them and call them off that jump.

Overall a pretty fun course. When I get the video of my run I'll try to post it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Wooly Bully

Drove for 45 minutes to the middle of nowhere at 8 am on a Sat. morning so Strummer could run around a pen chasing sheep like an absolute maniac. The poor instructor was beside herself and ended up with a nice imprint of a sheep's head in her leg. She gave up after 15 minutes and told me to give him another month to grow up and find his brain. Ah, if only.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Is It Friday Yet?

Here's a link to some photos from Regionals:

There aren't too many, I'm sure the photographer had his hands full with 3 rings going. There was another photographer there, I'll have to track down the website for those photos. I think I'm going to splurge on an 8x10 of Lola and put it in a shadow box with the fancy ribbons she got from the Grand Prix finals (one for her second place finish and another for qualifying for Semifinals at Natl's.).

Tried to go for a bike ride yesterday on the course for Friday's race but got chased home by an impending storm that turned out to be nothing. I felt stupid in a way but with all the crazy bad weather we've been having I didn't want to chance being up the canyon with lightening and a flash flood. I made it to the bottom of Olde Stage at Left Hand Canyon and the sky was grey with big raindrops starting to fall. I still got some good climbs in, going up both sides of steepy steep Olde Stage but I was hoping to do the whole course at least one more time so I could feel mentally prepared. Oh well, the race is this Friday morning and I'm not going to worry about it 'cause there's not much I can do at this point. My knee's been doing great lately so I'm pretty sure I can at least finish.

Phew, I need a nap, going back to work after a long weekend sucks. Maybe a trip to the coffee shop downstairs is in order.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Regionals - Day 3

A brilliant day! Lola had a lovely clean run in the Grand Prix Finals and came in 2nd place!!! I couldn't be more pleased. This gives her a bye into the semifinals at Nationals should we choose to go. There were some amazing runs in the Grand Prix Finals, very cool to watch those dogs flying around at warp speed. I was rooting hardest for a little brindle mutt that was blazing fast, giving some of those BC's a run for their money. Unfortunately the battery in my video camera was dead so I wasn't able to film any of it. Kicking myself very hard at the moment.

We started out with Speed Jumping Finals bright and early at 7:00 a.m. Since it's non-qualifying, for placements only type thing I decided to run like Jehu and push for speed just to see what would happen. Well, it wasn't pretty, some off courses and general craziness but we sure had fun. It was pretty cool just to be able to step up to the startline to be honest, lots of people sitting around watching and cheering us on.

Her standard run was brilliant, a little hesitation at the table but she did it, earning a Q and first place. One more standard Q and she's in masters after being in advanced for what seems like forever.

The Grand Prix course was a bit technical and it turned out the person I thought most likely to win the class was at the trial, she just wasn't on the running order for some reason. Also, after seeing some of the out of town dogs run I realized there was no way Lo was fast enough to beat them so I decided to run this course more conservatively, hoping at least to be in the top 50% of the class and earn a bye into the semifinals. I was nice & calm at the start line and managed to keep my head through most of the course. I had a wee moment at the end of the weaves where I couldn't see the next jump and pulled her too tightly out of the poles nearly missing the jump. But she managed to get it, costing us only time. We also lost a lot of time on the dogwalk when Lola decided to stop at the top and sightsee. There were spectators surrounding the entire ring, something she's not used to and I think that distracted her a bit plus we've been having dogwalk issues for ages now. I knew that would be a weak spot. Other than that the run was awesome, what a great feeling coming off of that course with such a nice run! That was by far the highlight of the weekend.

We had a nice run going in Speed Jumpers Finals despite some startline stress issues but I turned into him at the A-frame to make sure he got his contact which was stupid because it put too much pressure on him causing him to bail in the wrong direction and take an off course. Then we had problems at the weaves, he hit the entry but popped out right away again maybe because I was too far behind him or maybe because he hit the entry wrong and lost his rhythm. Tunnels to weaves are often a problem because of speed.

Cody decided he didn't like the course I had planned out for him in Team Snooker, he had one in mind that was way more points. I was amazed I was able to think on my feet and keep it together for as long as I did but we got whistled off when we didn't quite make it to the 4th red.

Team Pairs was a lovely fast run despite more startline stress problems and he hit his weaves perfectly on a tough entrance. I've never run the pairs relay before and it was fun, you have an actual baton that you pass to your partner like the relays I sometimes had to do on the track team. Butterfingers Fletcher managed to make a nice smooth exchange thank you very much.

Master Gamblers was going oh so well in the opening despite, once again, that startline stress problem. However, I didn't plan well and ended up with too much extra time and nowhere to go so Cody decided to run into the crowd to sign autographs for his adoring fans. When the buzzer finally sounded I had to call him away and we didn't have a great approach to the gamble so he took the wrong obstacle right off the bat. Pity too because it seemed like a fun, doable gamble.

I think 3 days in the sun was a bit much for Cody and I'm going to cut back on his summer trialing. He had some moments of brilliance but this is supposed to be fun and I hate to see him shutting down right on the startline even if he does perk up once we're up and running.

Overall it was an awesome trial, Lola Q'ed 7/8 runs which is amazing for her and Cody had a good percentage of nice runs too. Most of the classes he was in were non-qualifying events because of the team event so it was nice to run him without having to worry about it 'counting' for something. It was a bit much for me with the 3 rings and at one point I had to have 3 courses memorized at once but I somehow managed to keep them all straight and be in the right ring at the right time with the right dog. Don't know if/when Regionals will ever return to Denver but I already can't wait.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Regionals - Day 2

An interesting day, starting out with heat and ending with lightning, thunder, heavy rain, hail and flooding. We sat around for around 3-4 hours waiting for Team Snooker and Speed Jumping Finals only to have them postponed due to the over the top weather. It was a good thing they were postponed since both dogs, esp. Lo, hate thunder.

Cody had a wonderful clean run in Team Jumpers this morning, making his way through a truly convoluted and complicated course, saving my butt with an incredibly acrobatic jump that I would never have asked him to do if I'd had half a chance to think about it. He was a bit slow at the start as it was sunny & hot but he sped up at the end and made a difficult weavepole entry. Our teammate ran clean too so maybe that will make up a bit for yesterday.

The only disappointment of the day, and in fact the trial so far, was that Cody didn't make it through to the Grand Prix finals. He was flaky right on the start line and eventually took an off course that shouldn't have been a problem. It was a great course and perfect for him since there were so few traps but I think the heat was too much for him and there was a delay at the startline which further demotivated him right from the get go. I might have been a wee bit nervous but he was fine during the warm up and was even playing with a tug toy, something he won't do if he's stressed so who can say for sure. I'm putting it down to heat.

Miss Lola continued her perfect streak today getting a Q, 2nd place and her title in
Advanced Snooker and a gorgeous clean run in round one of the Grand Prix earning her 3rd place. She's now in all Masters except for standard. One more chance for another Q in standard tomorrow and then it's back to work on the table.

They're starting the events we missed yesterday at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow so it should be relatively cool but I'll be oh so sleepy. Better get to bed.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Regionals - Day 1

Overall, a great day. Dogs ran great, weather cooperated with some cloud cover and a nice wind in the afternoon. I was nice & relaxed and not a single sign of stress from the dogs. They were running slower than normal due to the heat but that was o.k. with me because they seemed to be having fun.

Miss Lo went 3/3 today, getting Q's and first places in her Advanced Standard and Advanced Gamblers runs and running 'clean' in Speed Jumping thus earning her a spot in the finals tomorrow. That Gamblers Q was her title as well so now it's on to Master Gamblers. I was especially pleased that she had a lovely quick down on the table, phew, finally!!! I've been working on that these past few weeks. Both runs were beautiful, lots of enthusiasm and focus. Speed Jumping was a bit herky jerky for both dogs, lots of refusals and run bys but they don't count in this event and we somehow managed to pull it together to finish clean. Not that great feeling of a smooth fast run but good enough to get us into the finals.

Cody was running really nicely today for the most part, no stress or avoidance behavior even when I messed up. Cody's on a team-Mad Dogs in the Mid-Day Sun- \and none of the team runs count toward titles so on the one hand there's a bit less stress. On the other hand I feel bad when I make mistakes that effect the team, even though my teammate is very laid back and understanding. In Team Gamblers he didn't do the gamble but had a nice run and some lovely weave poles. Team Standard started out really well but about halfway through I did a front cross at the A-frame, lost sight of where I was going when I turned to cross and accidentally sent him off course which is the worst mistake you can make in team because it earns you an elimination and thus no points at all for your run. And my teammate had a beautiful clean run so I felt a little bad but she was nice and told me not to worry about it. Cody also missed that darn weave entry but was fine on the do over. Again Speed Jumping was a bit wild & wooly and he missed an easy weave pole entrance but managed to do them perfectly when I had him redo them. Definitely something we need to work on.

Tomorrow is Round 1 of the Grand Prix and Speed Jumping Finals as well as more Team events for Cody and regular Advanced events for Lola. Hopefully the weather and my nerves will hold out.