Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who Doesn't Love a Happy Ending?

I wrote about my old friend Eric here: Spending Warm Sunny Days Indoors
In short, after the demise of his band Life Sentence Eric was living on the streets of Chicago and struggling with a heroin addiction. I found this out in the summer of 2005 and every time I made a trip home to Chicago I spent some time trying to find him, searching the halfway houses and places he'd been spotted panhandling. Trying to find him seemed hopeless and I had no idea how I was going to help him if I did find him but still I couldn't bear the thought of not trying.

As it turns out, Eric has cleaned himself up, gotten off the streets and is doing well. I don't have any more details but for now that's good enough news for me.

One interesting thing I found out about Eric is that he was an excellent swimmer, swam competitively for some team (I think college) and was good enough to consider qualifying for the Olympics. As I was dragging my ass through the pool at masters tonight I was thinking what a great swim coach he'd be. If anyone was capable of teaching me how to do a freakin' flip turn it'd be Eric.

And lord love the internet, here are some videos of Life Sentence from 1986 (Eric is the guitar player with the blond spiky hair):

The quality is appallingly bad but hey, that's punk rock.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Super Freaks

Number 1:
In honor of the upcoming Boston Marathon, the #1 superfreak award goes to Jacob, a 438 pound beekeeper from Wisconsin who's planning on running the Boston Marathon (as a bandit) on 3 months of training. To put this in perspective for the non-runners out there, most novice marathon training programs are 4-4 1/2 months long plus you want to have about 3 months or so worth of a base before starting the program. Attempting to run 26.2 miles on 3 months of training with no base and a serious case of being overweight is pure madness. However, you gotta give the guy props. He's raising money for charity and making some great lifestyle changes as part of his training. So far he's lost a whopping 66 pounds and his last blog entry had him logging 20 hours of 'exercise' for the week. I don't think I've ever logged 20 hours of exercise in a week in my life and that's right up there with the amount of time people spend in peak weeks training for the Ironman. It seems he's spending the bulk of the time on an exercise bike but also doing weight training and yoga which to me sounds like a great plan for fitness/weight loss for a beginner. It doesn't sound like he's doing much running though which is probably a good thing. Will he be able to finish the marathon? I think so. It won't be pretty and he'll probably have to walk a good portion of it but I'm guessing he'll pull it off. He's got the necessary drive, determination, sense of humor (his blog is pretty funny), and lack of common sense to complete a marathon. All I can say is Go Jacob Go, you are so punkrock.

Number 2:
Dear sweet lovely Cody comes in at superfreak #2. Sometimes I think I enroll him in agility classes just so someone else can see him and tell me that he's in his own little world and I'm not completely at fault for his shenanigans. There were only 2 of us in class on Monday so Cody had lots of opportunities to show off his interesting problem solving skills. The teacher kept saying things like; 'Well, that's an interesting thought he had', or 'Not sure how he figured that out' or 'He sure likes that A-frame' as Cody took some perplexing paths and off courses. It's not his fault mostly, it's my theory that he simply doesn't know how to read my handling signals in some contexts or that my signals in certain contexts mean something else to him than what they mean to me. Of course there's always that perverse 'no rules' part of him that wants to run & jump without worrying about me or where I think he should go. I think that part comes out mostly as a stress response to a perceived mistake but sometimes every once in a while I think he gets a little bug up his butt and just wants to run.

I took him to course run throughs on Thursday and it was pure disaster. Jumpers courses are usually his favorite and we normally do pretty well but somehow I couldn't quite get my brain around how to handle it and many of the challenges played to our weaknesses. I tried handling the tricky parts several different ways and eventually figured it out with the help of someone else who showed up. Even she noticed Cody's freakiness though-'He sure wants to take that off course jump no matter what you do'. By the time I figure this freaky dog out it will be time to retire him.

Number 3
Of course the obvious choice for #3 is NADAC. Eliminating the teeter because it's too dangerous?? Huh? Wuh? Well, whatever. I went over to NADAC's yahoogroup to try to make heads or tails of it but there are over 200 new messages and I just don't have the time or energy. I did notice that they've added extra classes at Championships this year-Hoopers, Gaters and Agility Obedience. What are they? I dunno. How on earth are they going to fit them in? Maybe they're shooting for a 24 hour Champs. Last year the days ran from around 7:30-8:00 a.m. to after 10:00 p.m. I think people will end up running in their jammies and bunny slippers this year.

I will say this about NADAC Champs-there was very little whining despite what I thought was one of the most disorganized, baffling agility events I've ever attended. People were happy & cheery despite the long days and lack of a schedule of events. I think NADAC's wacky management style weeds out the Type A people pretty quickly and you're left with a laid back go with the flow type of crowd. Now I'm pretty laid back but not that laid back so I won't be going back to Champs but I'm sure the majority of those who do go will no doubt enjoy themselves.

I just entered a NADAC trial in May but only one day and only 4 runs. It's really just a tune up for the 2 USDAA trials in the following weeks. Cody's running 2 rounds of standard for practice and one of Tunnelers for fun and Miss Lo will have her post injury debut running one round of Tunnelers only to see how her recovery's coming along. Unfortunately they were offering doubleshot Tunnelers which is 2 rounds of Tunnelers squished into one. You run the course then a connector tunnel shoots you back to the beginning and you run the same course again. Well, I'm not paying to run the same course twice-boring. What other changes will I find at the trial? I guess I'll have to wait and see and I suppose that's part of the freakiness and mystique of NADAC.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Stacy Peardot Foundation Workshop

It's been years since I've had a lesson with Stacy Peardot mostly because she stopped holding lessons at my practice field and I couldn't see myself driving the 1 1/2 hours in rush hour traffic up to her lessons in Fort Collins after work and of course driving back and being coherent for work the next morning. Never mind how tired & fuzzy I would have been for the actual lesson. So I was pleased to be able to pick up a last minute spot in her foundation workshop this weekend (handling workshop was sold out by the time I heard about it, darn it). I'm not sure how much teaching she does in the area anymore so it seems a rare treat when she offers something, esp. on a weekend. I finally felt confident taking Strummer to something like this and thought it would be a great opportunity to work on his barking/lunging at other dogs working agility in a pretty low key atmosphere where dogs wouldn't be running too crazy and he'd have a good chance at being successful (he was, yay!). Also I'm always eager to see what other people are doing in the way of foundation training and was looking to pick up a few new things to work on. I feel like I know what I'm doing in some areas but have holes in others so I was hoping to fill in some gaps.

Her training center is located on a beautiful piece of land at the end of a private dead end dirt road in the hills a few miles north of Fort Collins. There were a few hairy, narrow turns on the dirt road going up to her place but coming back down was no problem somehow, maybe because I had an idea of what to expect or more likely because the big drop off was on the other side of the road so it wasn't as freaky. She's got a nice outdoor ring as well as an indoor training center with a carpeted surface. I was worried about this at first but it felt pretty spongy. I'm not sure what's beneath the carpet but I wouldn't have a problem working my dogs on it if the opportunity ever arose again (and I'm pretty picky about that kind of thing). Of course we weren't doing anything concussive for the foundation workshop so it didn't matter anyway but something for me to keep in mind if she ever offers another workshop.

The workshop was scheduled to last 3 hours but Stacy took an extra half hour or so to work with us. Overall it was really helpful. Stacy's an excellent teacher and she does a good job of spending an equal amount of time with all participants. She went into a lot of detail and answered everyone's questions but still managed to move things along at a good pace so we covered quite a bit of material. In fact I can't think of a single negative thing about it, it was a fun morning of training on a perfect Colorado spring day in a beautiful setting, what more could you ask for?

I have several pages of notes and not nearly enough time to type all of it up, at least not tonight. I've been busy w/ work and the return of normal weather means I've been spending most of my free time outdoors so I'm afraid the blog's been suffering a bit. I'll try to type up the most interesting bits for now.

Traffic Cone Game

The purpose of this game is to teach the dog tight turns and also to get him to work his spine. You start facing a traffic cone with your dog on your left and a bit in front of you near the cone. You have a toy (or food if he doesn't like toys) in your right hand. Take the dog's collar in your left hand to restrain him a bit then tease the dog with the toy in your right hand. Release the dog, lure him clockwise around the cone and quickly rotate 180 degrees, picking the dog up on your right like a front cross. The idea is to get the dog to turn as tightly and quickly around the cone as possible. Strummy really liked this game but it took me a little bit of practice and guidance from Stacy to get it just right. Eventually you can transition to a jump to practice tight wraps.

Position Training (heel/side)

This was simply teaching the dog to sit straight facing forward in heel & side position like in obedience and to put a hand cue to it. The purpose is to train the dog to come up to your side parallel to you on the course and to never cross in front or behind (unless you cue him to). To start out we were to lure the dog into a sit position at our side. This sounds so simple but I've been having a hard time teaching Strummy to sit straight next to me. We started this in obedience class toward the end of classes and we never quite got it. Part of the problem is that Strum is such a long backed dog and I have such short arms that it's hard for me to reach back to give him enough room to lure him into position. He's also uncomfortable with me standing next to him. Stacy's solution for this was for me to put him in a sit and then move myself into position next to him, say the verbal cue ('heel' or 'side') then give him his treat. The idea is that he'll eventually become more comfortable and learn the verbal cue so that he'll soon go into position himself when he hears the verbal. Funny thing is that this was my first instinct in obedience class but the teacher told me not to do it. So far it's working out pretty well, we'll see how things progress. Of course there was also the option of lining him up next to a wall.

The next step is to take a step forward and call/cue the dog to heel/side position. He should come up next to you right into position. Ultimately you should be able to cue the dog to come up parallel to your side while running a course.

I'm embarassed to say that this basic skill is a huge gap for me. I've never had anyone explain in detail how to train this (other than a baffling article in Clean Run some time ago) and never seen the point of it so it was especially helpful to see how to use it on a course.

Directional Training

Nobody was interested in learning left/right so Stacy spent most of the time teaching the 'turn away' cue. She does this by starting with the dog sitting in heel/side position then luring the dog to turn into a 360 circle away from the handler and finish up right next to the handler back in heel/side position. Because Strum is so long backed I was allowed to take a little step forward if I needed to to allow him enough space for his turn. You say the verbal cue (I use 'turn') as the dog is executing the turn away from you.

Next step is to add motion to it, turning toward your dog as he turns away from you and picking him up on the opposite hand like a rear cross. I'd actually already trained Strum to do this with the motion part already added but I think I'm going to try the circle thing too. Yes, I know this violates the Greg Derrett method of handling and I do like how Susan Garrett trains the rear cross but I trained Lola to have a 'turn away' cue and I've found it invaluable. It's about the only verbal directional cue she truly understands and I really really like it. I've never had a problem with her turning away from me when she's not supposed to and I'm not sure how you do Gamblers without having this kind of a cue. Since I don't have these other people in my area to explain their methods to me I'm staying with what I know works for me for now.

Eventually you add the jump in. You start by straddling the jump with the dog facing the jump. You send the dog over the jump and throw a toy away from you while saying 'turn' and the dog should turn away from you to get the toy on the other side of the jump. You can also put a toy on the ground to act as a lure.

Phew, that's all I have time for right now. Hopefully I'll have time for more later.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

You Might Be a Boulderite

If you drive your bikes to the car wash and wash the bikes but not the car you might be a Boulderite. For the record it was my husband that did that, not me. I don't bother with either so I might be a slob. Or a water miser, yeah, that's it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

How Far is that Marathon?

I hardly expect family members or coworkers to know that the term 'marathon' applies to a race of a 26.2 mile distance only. So when grandma asks me how I did in my marathon last week and it was only a 5k I don't split hairs with her. However you'd think a race director for one of the largest 10k's in the country would know what a marathon is. I got an email from the Bolder Boulder folks offering me a free marathon training program if I signed up for their race. Turns out it's just a 10k training program for the Bolder Boulder. Hopefully noone's going to turn up for their fall marathon woefully unprepared.