Friday, August 31, 2007

R.I.P. Hilly

Hilly Kristal, founder of CBGB's, died this week of lung cancer at age 75. First CBGB's gets shut down, then Hilly dies, sheesh I feel old.

I went to CBGB's once about 23 years ago during my one and only visit to New York City. The friend I was travelling with hated punk music and didn't really want to go but it was the only place in NY I really really wanted to go to during our visit so he sucked it up and humored me (and somehow is still speaking to me). We took the subway to the Bowery late on Saturday night and when I asked the train conductor which stop I needed to get off at he looked at me in disbelief and said, 'Oh, you don't want to get off there'. My friend was not reassured by this. Nor was he feeling any better about things when we were greeted off the subway by enormous cat sized rats who were rustling about in full view, not the least bit worried by our presence. CB's was a dump, the sound was atrocious and the band, The Raunch Hands, was worse. I made the dorky tourist mistake of going on a Saturday night when in fact all the good punk bands played matinees on Sunday afternoons. My friend still leverages that experience to this day (I went with you to CBGB's, the least you can do is.......). Despite it all I'm glad I went and had the opportunity to experience a slice of history. And it was hands down the highlight of my trip to NYC.

Driving Miss Lola

I had the good fortune to run into one of my longtime instructors Joy out at Biscuit Eaters on Weds. night and as luck would have it she was teaching a private lesson at 6:00 pm the very next day and was happy to schedule me for 6:30. It's been years since I've had a lesson with Joy and this is unfortunate because she's an excellent instructor and has been an incredible help to me throughout the years, esp. when I was starting out.

I took Lola for the lesson because I wanted Joy to see how she was running and give me her opinion about whether her issues seemed physical or the result of her long layoff. Joy had her own little sheltie out for a long time with a shoulder injury so she's had experience with rehab and coming back to agility. Sure enough, Lola missed a simple weave entry right away then made the entry on the second pass but popped right out of just a 6 pole set, both the issues that have been giving me the most worry. Joy noticed right away that the problem was that Lola was watching me instead of focusing on the poles. She thinks that all the time away from the agility obstacles and all the work I've been doing one on one with her in the meantime have caused her to become more handler focused and she's lost her obstacle focus. She had me go back to basics, open up the channels on the weaves and escort her right up to the entrance like you would a baby dog then run with her right to the end. Then we added a jump and a tunnel before the jump and after just a few passes Lola was finding her entries and weaving confidently like her old self. We did some proofing things, having me hang back and send her, having me run laterally away from the poles, having me turn in a circle while she's doing the poles and Lola handled it all perfectly and didn't give me a second look. Joy thinks if I keep up with this sort of back to basic training that Lola will soon get her obstacle focus back.

As for the balking at the jumps, Joy thinks this is because I'm standing still too much and trying to send her or call her to me rather than running with her. Now I know this about Lola but simply forgot, it's been so long since I've handled her. I can think of several instances at the trial last weekend where my lack of motion could have led to her balking at the jumps.

So in less than 1/2 an hour Joy put my mind at ease about her physical condition and I feel more confident about training her now. We'll go back to basics for a little bit though it shouldn't take too long, Lola seemed to be remembering it all pretty quickly. I cancelled my appointment at Alameda East. Their biomechanics lab is kaput anyway (noone to run it at the moment) and I was going to see a physical therapist who insisted she has some method for working on the dogs' backs that helps them redistribute the forces more evenly to their back and off their shoulders when they land. I was both hopeful and skeptical about this as a preventative thing, I figured it would be worth at least one session but I think for now I'm going to focus on training and maybe reschedule if I think she stills needs it later on.

I'm going to try to continue on with 1/2 hour private lessons with Joy. It's not cheap but these short sessions focused on my particular needs seem to help me so much more than a longer more general regular class with lots of other people so in the end it's more cost effective even if I have to cut back to once every other week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We're Number...25

I was perusing the USDAA's Top Ten listings (yeah, it's a bit slow today) and noticed that Cody is listed under Standard of all things. I think one of his 2 standard Q's was a first place, maybe even both of them were, heck if I can remember. Funny to see our name, the very last on the list but still we're there. Who knows how long that will last but it gave me a cheap thrill on a boring Tuesday evening. Yeah, I think I need to get out more.


FRAC's USDAA trial in Laramie, WY is one of my favorites. Laramie's a great little college town and the 2 hour drive is easy since I don't have to trek through any major cities. Last year this trial was Cody's last chance to pick up his 2nd Grand Prix leg to qualify for Nationals and somehow he managed to pull the run of his life out of his ass to qualify despite the pressure. This year it was his last chance to qualify for Speed Jumping, the only event he wasn't yet qualified in and the event I cared the most about. I also had the shocking realization the other night that he needed only one masters standard leg for his Perf. MAD. I thought we only had one standard leg, how did I forget a whole standard leg, esp. when they're the hardest thing to come by for us??!! This is a testimony to just how bad my memory has gotten. I don't care all that much about titles but it would be cool if Cody could get at least his MAD, or whatever it's called in Perf.

The trial was only one ring so they had to spread it over 3 days to fit in all the classes. The first day started on Friday at 4:00 pm and lasted until 8:00 pm which is a heck of a long day for me since I was up at 5:40 to get an early morning run in before heading off for half a day of stressful scrambling at work to meet a deadline before leaving for Laramie. Speed Jumping was the second event so I was tired and my brain was checking out before we even walked the course. But once again Cody had his gameface on and we pulled off another amazing run for 3rd place and a Q. So now that he's fully qualified for Nationals it's a pretty good likelihood that I'll go. Jonny's pushing me to go too so I'm leaning towards going.

As for his standard runs they were both beautiful but each with one little glitch so no MAD this time around. One run was about as good as it gets but he blew his dogwalk contact, the only missed contact all weekend. Can you say frustrating??!! On the other hand he had beautiful tables and weave poles, great focus, no problems with anything else so I guess I can't complain.

In all he picked up 2 masters jumpers Q's and a masters pairs Q in addition to the Speed Jumping. Everything else was oh so close. After entering in his weekend's scores I realized he's closing in on the champ. title. He needs 1 jumpers, 1 gamblers, 2 pairs, 3 standard and 3 Super Q's in snooker. O.k., maybe that's still quite a lot but it sure feels like it's a possibility he could pull it off before I have to retire him. There's a trial in New Mexico just a week or 2 after Nationals and it's tempting to go to that instead of Nationals to try to finish up his titles but meh I don't think I care that much. If he gets it, he gets it, I don't want to give up something that might be more fun just to try for titles.

Lola had a rougher weekend but I was expecting that. I've not been able to work with her as much as I wanted because of the heat and evening monsoon thunderstorms. She was balking at jumps and looked awkward at time in the weaves. It's hard to say if it's a confidence/training issue or a physical one. I'm trying to get her in to Alameda East down in Denver for a lameness evaluation in their fancy pants biomechanics lab. I thought about taking her back to the orthopedic vet but she's not showing any overt signs of lameness and I doubt he'd find anything with a physical manipulation exam. She's probably fine but I'd have better piece of mind and would feel better about working her if I had another opinion. She's been running 8-12 miles per week with me and doing great on top of all her other conditioning activities so I'm hoping it's just a case of being rusty after such a long layoff and not much practice. She did pick up a master jumpers Q and a pairs Q and did have some nice standard runs, did her downs on the table (phew!) and some nice weave pole performances. Of course I had plenty of crappy handling moments that didn't help matters.

Overall a fun but tiring weekend. There was some trouble at the hotel on Friday night and I only got 3 1/2 hours of sleep. I'm still feeling the effects and it'll probably take until the weekend for me to catch up on sleep. The courses were fun but challenging. Lots of nice flow to them where you could stretch out and run but some tricky bits thrown in as well. The next USDAA trial in the area has the same judge and since I like her courses and she claimed she wasn't calling fault limits (though she was whistling people out, couldn't quite figure out what the criteria was) I decided to sign up for all 3 days of the trial, including the Team event. I was debating about Team since it means taking a vacation day, an extra hotel night stay and an extra day of wear and tear on the dogs and me but I think it'll be good practice if I do decide to go to Nationals. For now though it's sleep and catch up with life. I can't wait for the 3 day weekend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Isabelle Lake

Here are more photos:

Went for another hike on Sunday, this time up to Isabelle Lake and points beyond in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. No dogs this time, the trail gets busy up to the lake then it gets very steep, rocky and narrow though the crowds thin out. In any case I didn't feel like hassling with the dogs and it was my birthday so I didn't even feel guilty leaving them home. The trail starts out in the woods and steadily climbs to Lake Isabelle where you get spectacular views. This is probably my favorite day hike from Boulder I've got a bazillion photos from this spot but I couldn't help myself and had to take a few more. Just like Border Collies, you can never have too many, right?

The trail heading up above Isabelle Lake goes well above treeline to Pawnee Pass which links up with a couple of other trails. I've gone all the way to the top of Pawnee Pass, once with heavy overnight backpacking gear and a 7 year old 100 pound Akita, but the last hour or so is a terrible neverending slog up steep exposed rocky switchbacks at around 12,000 feet elevation and neither Jonny nor I were up for it. Here's a view from the top though I've got better photos somewhere. We got up to a flattish tundra area with a view of Lake Isabelle below just before the really steep rocky part and decided that was a good place for sammiches and enjoying the cool wind. After a long hot summer it felt good to be snuggling into a sweatshirt. Jonny had tweaked his knee so we decided to head back down after lunch and it was a good thing because though it was clear blue skies when we turned around by the time we got back to the car 1 3/4 hours later it started pouring rain. It's the heart of monsoon season here which means violent afternoon thunderstorms are the norm. The rain got torrential as we drove home down Left Hand Canyon and we ended up picking up a cyclist who was going hypothermic and could no longer control his bike on the descent. I was more than happy to help him out but sheesh, what experienced cyclist goes up in the mountains this time of year with no rain coat? He blamed his hypothermia on being dehydrated from a 13 mile run earlier that day straight up Magnolia Road, which is a hellishly steep dirt road. Uh, sure, if you say so.

Saturday I took Cody & Lola up to Powerpups in Windsor, about 50 minutes away, for a fun match of sorts. It's more like course run throughs because you can go anytime you want all day so people trickle in here and there. There were only 3 of us walking the course first thing in the morning then a few more showed up so I got 2 runs in with both dogs and was done in less than an hour. The course was the Grand Prix finals from the Oregon USDAA Regionals this year and it was a tricky one. Some weird angles heading into a tricky weave pole entry was perfect practice for us. I had some trouble with the section with Lola and tried it different ways. Cody was in a fiesty mood and was charging through all his contacts. He had a beautiful running contact on the dogwalk but, erm, that's not what he's supposed to do. The launch off the A-frame was not so beautiful. We redid everything until he had nice stops at the bottom. It's tempting to think about training running contacts for him, more to ease the impact on his shoulder and for motivational reasons than for speed, but at 9 years old I'm not convinced it's a great idea. He does have nice running contacts when he doesn't launch though, hits the yellow no problem and he seems so much happier. Lola was running a bit rough, we haven't been practising enough because of the heat and I think she's lost a bit of confidence. We've got a trial this weekend and all I can do is hope for the best for her. I'll get her back up to speed this fall when the weather cools down. Took Cody through a quick course run through on Tuesday night and he nailed a USDAA masters standard course. If only he could run like that consistently in trials. In any case it's always a kick in the pants to run him when he's on, even if we're the only ones to see it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More photos

Here are some more photos from my hike to Arapaho Pass over the weekend. Here's a link to the rest of them: photos I got a little carried away taking pictures of Strummer in the wildflowers and he was fed up by the end of the hike.
The cuts on my knee from my fall are looking impressive. I should make up a better story about how I got them.
A coworker had a more interesting hike than me over the weekend. He was hiking up Mt. Evans which is one of Colorado's most popular 14ers (peaks over 14,000 ft. highI) and his reward at the top was a naked girl and 2 of her friends taking pictures. The so called 'Canyon Goddess' is on a mission to get pictures of herself naked at the top of all of Colorado's 14ers. Yes, my coworker did end up going to lunch with her.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Walk Don't Run

My next and last triathlon of the season is the Glenwood Springs Triathlon in Sept. It's basically a sprint distance except for the run which is 5 miles and which has always been my bane every year I've done this race. It's mostly on road or smooth non-technical trails and it's not too terribly hilly (though nothing in Colorado is strictly flat) but I'm always sucking wind the last mile or so. So I've decided to try to focus on improving my run in the next few weeks before the race. I'll almost certainly be sucking wind anyway because I'm not in the best of shape at the moment but this summer's all about getting back into racing/training so I'm not going to stress too much about it.

Anyway, today should have been a long run day but this past week was pretty rough between recovering from last week's race and other physical issues. So I decided I'd much rather go for a nice relaxing hike in the high country. I took Strummer and we headed up to Arapaho Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. It's only an hour's drive but the scenery is beautiful. This particular hike has spectacular wildflower displays and this year's are even more amazing than usual. I only took the one dog because I wanted this to be relaxing, remember. Lola's prey drive is so high that she loses her mind in the woods and Cody is o.k. but he likes to stop and sniff a lot which can get annoying on a long hike so Strummy it was. He did great, soliciting attention from anyone who would give it to him. The hike is only 6 miles but it starts at around 10,000 feet and goes up to nearly 12,000 so a good portion of it is above treeline which slowed us both down a bit. In all we were hiking around 3 hours but that included all our breaks for water, pictures, questions about Strummer from the other hikers, etc. It was a gorgeous day and a wonderful hike that hit the spot. I had no regrets at all about skipping my run.

I did take a tumble near the end of the hike when I got distracted by some other hikers and failed to notice a big rock in my way. I've got some good cuts and bruises on my knee but what else is new. Twisted my back pretty good too but so far I feel o.k.

I'll try to post more pictures tomorrow as my internet connection at home sucks and it's a pain to post photos.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Going Underground - Indian Peaks Dirtfest Off Road Triathlon

750 m swim, 17.5 k bike, 5 k run
Eldora Ski Resort, Eldora, CO
Elevation 9300'

This was the inaugural running of this race which is always a bit risky for the competitors/guinea pigs but I've done lots of host Racing Underground 's races before and I've enjoyed every single one of them. The race director typically does a nice job of putting on a fun, well organized, low key event and this one was no exception.

The swim took place in Lake Peterson which is a private lake just outside the ski resort. In winter it doesn't just freeze, it gets covered in big icy snowdrifts that look like they're never going to melt. Every single person shivers when I tell them where the swim will take place. Eldora required everyone to wear wetsuits. Water temp. was supposedly 62 degrees but I seriously doubt it, felt more like high 50's. The swim start was an unusual time trial format which had racers going in one at a time 5-10 secs. apart. We were seeded according to a combination of our predicted swim time and mountain biking skills. Out of nearly 200 racers I was seeded 181 and I started about 20 minutes after the start of the race. I thought this would make for a lonely race but in the end it worked out well, I was riding and running with people of my own ability and had very few conflicts on the trail. The swim was wonderful, I had plenty of open water to myself, it was easy to pass people and I even found some feet to draft off of for a wee bit until she started swimming way off course and I had to let her go. There was a small warm up area so I got in and dunked my head under to get used to the water. I had a good head freeze and nearly decided to call it a day right then and there (62 degrees my ass) but eventually I got used to the water or maybe I was simply numb and couldn't feel anything, swam a few short warm up laps and was ready to go. I had no panic attacks or trouble breathing and fell into a nice rhythm right away. Swim went well, did a good job with the sighting, passed a bunch of people and the scenery around the lake was beautiful. It felt good after last race's disastrous swim. I've been going twice a week to the Boulder Rez for my masters group's morning open water practice and this has been a huge help. I was out of the water in 17:20 for a pace of 2:07 mins./100 yards which is fairly average pace race pace for me. I was purposely taking it easy because I knew the bike would be tough.

600 m dash and T1
Unfortunately I couldn't stop to take off my wetsuit in the water without blocking the other racers so I had a bit of a struggle with the thing on shore. Sometimes it comes off so easily and sometimes I feel like I'm wrestling a big black rubber octopus that's trying to strangle me. The more you struggle, the harder it's grip becomes. Once I finally freed myself from the neoprene beast I had to lug the heavy sopping thing for an uphill 600 m trail run to the transition area. I threatened serious violence on any and all photographers who even looked like they were thinking about taking my picture as I must have looked like the creature from the black lagoon complete with pale white belly since I was swimming in my running bra and my cycling jersey was in the transition zone. The battle with the wetsuit and 600 m run took 8:15 and I was out of T1 in 1:39.

I'd been looking forward to this part of the race the most even though I knew it would be the longest and toughest portion. As it turned out the trails were way less technical than the ones I'd been riding with Jonny. There was one very steep rocky hike-a-bike section that was unrideable for probably everyone but other than that almost the entire rest of the course was rideable. Lots of beautiful, smooth singletrack and dirt roads. The trails were mostly cross country ski and snowshoe trails that I've skiied during the winter and it was kind of cool to see what they look like in the summer. I was also shocked at how steep some of them were and couldn't believe I'd been down them on skis. These trails aren't open to the public during the summer so it was a rare treat to be able to ride them.

The course started with a steep uphill then leveled off for some ups and downs for about 2 miles. I held my own for this part, even passed a few people on the downhill. Then we hit the hike-a-bike section which was my least favorite part of the race. I was hiking up an incredibly steep rock garden in my bike cleats while pushing my bike and neither my back or I was happy about it. Loads of people passed me and I could feel my heart rate going through the roof while I crawled at a snail's pace up the neverending hill. It was supposedly 300 yards but felt oh so much longer. Once at the top there was some wonderful singletrack and I caught up with and passed a couple of people. I missed the trail at one point and one of the guys I passed got ahead of me again and I got stuck behind him on the singletrack, the only place in the race I had a problem. Eventually he fell right in front of me for no reason I could see and after checking to make sure he was o.k. I rode on. I was by myself for quite a long portion and it was easy to forget I was in a race. The woods were gorgeous, the trail a lovely mix of ups and downs and I even saw a deer dash down the trail in front of me. There were spotting's of a moose mom and her baby in the area over the winter so I was keeping my eyes peeled but sadly I didn't see them. There were a few short super steep uphill sections that I had to get off and walk and a few mud puddles on the downhill but otherwise I rode just about the whole thing.

By the 7 mile mark I had had enough fun for one day and I was thinking that had I entered the DOCNA trial I would have been eating my entry fees because I knew there was no way I was going to be up for an agility trial the next day. I was also thinking that I was so not in the mood to run a 5k on steep trails at 9000 ft thank you very much and I still had quite a bit of biking left before I got the privilege. A guy finally caught up to me and I let him pass me before a steep downhill and followed him for a while. We came to a trail called 'Cheater's Corner' and he headed down in so I gleefully followed knowing that this was the quick way back to the base. Now my brain knew this was wrong because we had way too many miles left but my heart wanted to believe the lie so I followed without question down a steep hill then back up a steep hill. Where a kindly volunteer told us, uh, sorry folks but you've come the wrong way. So it was back down the steep hill and back up the other steep hill only to find the guy who'd fallen and I'd passed ages ago had caught back up to me. I lost at least 5 minutes and some precious energy on that little detour. I was doing so well following the signs too. I almost got led astray at my last race by a guy in front of me not paying attention. So from now on I'm reading all my own signs, no more following the boys.

A few more miles of steepy hills, both up and down and finally the volunteer said 'Just down this road and around a corner to the transition area'. I told him sweeter words were never spoken and cruised down the hill to T2. Total bike time was 1:49:24 for a measly 5.96 mph ave. speed and a max. speed of 24.6 mph.

As I came into T2 a woman who had finished must have seen how tired I looked and in an effort to give me some encouragement told me the bike really sucked but the run was great, I would really love it. Boy did she lie. I was out of T2 in 1:07.

I was pretty toasted by this point, the bike was fun but the hills and constant redlining/recovery cycles had worn me down. The run was also on the ski trails so I was familiar with most of them and knew what I was in for. I had to power hike all the steep hills but managed to run the rest albeit very slowly. At the 2 mile mark I came to a hill that I knew was awful and as I was contemplating the enormity of it and fighting back the swear words I somehow managed to fall for no particular reason on a wide, flat, smooth piece of trail. The same guy who had fallen in front of me on the bike was hot on my trail and this time it was his turn to ask if I was o.k. I was fine, just a little twisted ankle that quickly felt o.k. to run on but man I felt stupid after handling all those bike trails with nary a problem. We both stopped at the top of the hill at an aid station to get a quick swig of water and he said I was doing so great, he was struggling to keep up. I told him I certainly didn't feel all that great but thanks anyway. I left him at the aid station and tried to pick up the pace, not because I cared about beating anybody but because I so badly wanted to be done. With about 1/2 mile to go one of the women I'd passed way back on the bike passed me back like I was standing still. Normally I don't care about such things but there was something particularly heartbreaking about it maybe because I was so tired and oxygen deprived and because I so badly wanted to be done. There was no way I could keep that pace so I watched her go. The finish line came up abruptly after a turn so I didn't have much opportunity to pick up the pace for a final kick but to be honest I didn't have much kick left in me anyway so it was just as well. Run time was 38:23 for a pace of around 12:48/mile which is slower than my worst marathon pace.

Final finish time was 2:56:06. I was happy to finish under 3 hours. It's so hard to have a sense of what the numbers mean because trail riding and running are so different from the road. Hopefully they'll do the race again next year and I can see if I can improve.

Final stats:
Swim-750 m (820 yards): 17:20 or 2:07/100 yards (111/168 overall)

600 m dash (656 yards) + wetsuit removal: 8:15

T1: 1:39
Bike-17.5 k (10.87 miles) ish/1400 foot elevation gain: 1:49:24 or 5.96 mph ave. speed (142/168 overall)

T2: 1:09

Run-5 k (3.1 miles) ish/300 foot elevation gain: 38:23 or 12:48 min./mile (150/168 overall)

Overall: 2:56:06 (148/168 overall)

I was 2/2 in my age group and got a nice glass for an award. On the one hand I felt a bit silly taking home hardware just because I showed up but on the other hand it was a long, hard day out there and if I get a little something extra to take home for it, well, why not enjoy it. I can't help it that not many 40-44 year old women chose to show up on the day. Oddly enough the 45-50 and 50-54 female divisions all had faster times than the first place woman in my division. I ended up beating the woman who passed me in the final stages of the run by 1 second because she had started so far ahead of me in the swim. The guy right behind me in the run ended up beating my by 29 seconds because he started the swim behind me. This is one of the disadvantages of a time trial start, you don't really know how much time lies between you and the people immediately around you. Personally I don't care because I don't race the other people anyway. I loved the format, esp. having so much space in the water and room on the trails on the bike. However I can see how it would mess with the people who are really competitive minded.

I'd been fighting some health issues all week and I wasn't feeling all that great on race day. I'd started taking drugs on Sunday that messed with my hormones and was struggling to adjust to those plus the effects of the disease so I wasn't in fighting form but still I think I can get in a lot better shape than I'm in. That bike course was good for the climbers and I could have done better, esp. on the hike-bike part. Running always has lots of room for improvement. Swim went fine, I can improve a bit but I was happy enough with it. Race conditions were perfect-low 70's and cloudy with some nice cooling breezes. There was a chance of thunderstorms but thankfully they never came during the race. Overall a very fun race in a beautiful setting.
I also won a hat, bottle of Hammer Gel and $25 gift certificate to my favorite bike store in the post race raffle. Jonny suggested a Cervelo bike frame but I don't think $25 is going to make much of a dent in that $3800 price tag (never mind the components). Think I'll put it towards some new tires or a saddle pack. Darn, why do I always have to be so sensible.