Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bird Flu or Bad Omen

I saw my first robin of the year yesterday so spring should be around the corner right? Unfortunately he was belly up with his little feet sticking in the air and a layer of frost on his pretty red belly. It's too early for West Nile Virus and I'm guessing it's not bird flu so unless Frank Shorter's cats who live near the scene of the crime were up to some mischief I'm assuming this is meant to be a portent about spring. As if on cue I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow in my yard only to be followed by a full on snow storm. I was finally starting to feel like I was making a little progress on the bike too. It's all Jonny's fault for putting the trainer back in the garage.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Whoop There It Is

Ding ding ding, we have a weiner folks. I didn't think it was possible but today someone surpassed the idiocy of all the other AKC quotes with this little beaut:

"Those of us fortunate enough or knowledgeable enough about temperament understand that it is almost impossible to determine temperament and health from and about mixed breeds.

By sanctioning and allowing mixes to compete along side our purebreds is fine for most other organizations, I truly believe it will dilute the branding and the prestige that AKC has worked so hard to develop.

I love the fact that I have a pure bred after owning mutts for years.I did so after careful deliberation and study. I personally love all dogs, regardless of the breed or mix - but let's keep the AKC just about purebreds - it is a special honor to CH or to gain an AKC title and I take pride in owning a purebred CH and I want to continue to remain proud of our work and of my line."

O.k., I'll stop beating this dead horse but I just couldn't resist this one.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Empire of Dirt

The snow has finally melted. The weathermen were positively disappointed that we missed the record by 2 or 3 days for most consecutive days of snow on the ground. I'm sorry but after not seeing my yard, the agility field, the trails, my driveway for over 60 days in a row I could care less about some stupid record. The agility field is in great shape, dry with no mud. I took all 3 dogs out there this morning and what a great feeling that was, finally some normalcy back in my life. I worked on some jumping and tunnels with Strummer. He has the most awesome table and I barely had to do anything to train it. However he's the first dog I've had who's had trouble with the tire jump. He keeps running in the space between the tire and the frame. I'll have to block it off with a wing or something until he gets more fluent with it. He's doing really well with finding the proper entry with just 2 weave poles. Still needs a bit of work on the far off side entry but I'm guessing he'll soon have that down. I've been taking a plank with me to work and obedience class so we can work on his contacts and he's doing great with that. I've started adding in distractions, calling him to me, sending him, running with him, etc. and he gets the position almost every time. Best of all though was that he was able to work at the field today with all kinds of chaos going on around him-people setting up a course, a loose dog, some crated dogs, some dogs running and barking on the fenceline next to the field. He ran off a few times to say hi to the other people but came right away when I called him.

Lola's still in rehab but she got to work on a cavaletti and got to walk through the weaves with every other pole missing. She's allowed to run off leash now and can start running with me. She is so happy these days, grinning from ear to ear. The past 2 months have been tough on her and she's been seriously moping.

Cody got to run a course from a European judge. It was surprisingly open and fast with a few fun tricky bits thrown in. I'd always assumed the European courses were very tight and trappy. We got to show off our distance skills as there were several places on the course where they helped a lot. I guess NADAC is good for something. He ran it clean except for the very last jump. I assumed he had it and slowed up a bit causing him to pull off. Will I ever learn it's not over til it's over? He had one very wide turn so we worked that part of the course for a bit. Poor guy, it was so obvious he had no idea how to read cues for the turn. I worked some drills with him during the week for this very thing but it's going to take some more practice.

This afternoon I was back on my bike and finally able to hit the trails. They were 95% dry though I did have a problem going up Ice Hill which is very steep and long. I can't ride the whole thing even when I'm in good shape and today the very top was still covered in mud and snow. The snow was on a steep angle across the very last part of the trail and I had a bit of a 'moment' wondering if I could make it. I had to carry my bike on some parts then sidestep up the snow bank and hope my cleated bike shoes held their grip. It turned out to be no problem as long as I didn't look down. Otherwise a brilliant ride, saw a bald eagle and finally the prarie dogs! It's been months since I've seen those sassy little rodents.

Yesterday was a trail run and I'm up to 37 minutes, over 3 miles. The 5k should be a piece of cake as long as I don't injure myself. I did manage to fall off the sidewalk from a complete standstill yesterday. I'm sure Strummer was somehow responsible. There are always dogs at the scene of my most stupid mishaps. Knee's a bit swollen where I landed but otherwise everything seems o.k. Anyway, it was so joyous to be running on solid dirt again. Can't wait til I can work up to some longer distances and maybe even some hills if I'm good.

Last but not least I can't help but share some dirt from the Colorado agility list. The flap over allowing mixed breeds into AKC events sure has brought out the worst in some people. I could get angry over it or I could just laugh my ass off. Some of those people must have spent too much time playing under the power lines as kids. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

I'm sorry that people with mixed breed dogs want to compete in AKC, but what part of "the sport of purebred dogs" do you not understand.
"It's hard enough to get into an AKC agility trial around here with a purebred, I'd hate to be shut out of a spot at an AKC trial by a mixed breed.There are enough other venues around that any breed or mix can play in, let AKC trials be for AKC recognized breeds."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------"What people are doing now with designer dogs is creating mutts and scamming the gullible into thinking they're getting something special."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------"I wouldn't want to discourage mixes from participating in agility, but also agree with some of the previous posts, that there are other venues that they can compete in.”

I personally have no issue with mixed breeds competing in AKC events as long as they are a separate venue from purebreed events and do not have an impact on points, placements, championships for purebred dogs

And here we go, my all time personal favorite that also demonstrates why you should always check your house for gas leaks before posting to the internet:

"I think those that worry about mixed breeds being less than obedient, there could be a ruling that all dogs have to have some form of obedience training before entering certain events (purebred and mixed breeds). I have never attended any of the other venues, but am sure that most mixed breed owners are just as concerned abouttheir dogs' behavior at these events as most of the purebreds owners.

My first dog was a mixed breed border collie and he spurred my interest in obedience and behaviors. From there I became more interested in purebreds. So I feel AKC is on the right track as far as mentoring the mixed breeds."


No this wasn't taken out of context as their was no context to take it out of. Nobody had mentioned anything about mixes being disobedient, this person started going off all on her own. I can't even imagine what she thinks the AKC wants to mentor me about. Frankly I'd love to know.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I Feel So Dirty

Found out this morning that the AKC is considering opening their performance events up to mixed breeds. There's a survey you can fill out to voice your opinion. After reading the survey and accompanying information about the proposed changes oh I've got an opinion all right. For one thing they're considering making the mixed breeds run in separate classes from the purebreds and not allowing them to qualify for nationals. Um, who in their right mind would go for this? My favorite quote was this, "Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC and encouraging them to make their next dog a purebred by showing that purebreds consistently outperform mixed breeds". Just how far do those crusty old farts at the AKC have their heads shoved up their keisters? From my own personal, selfish point of view I don't want them to let the mutts in. I'm afraid if they do that USDAA will lose even more business and we'll have even less trials than we do now. Right now there are 18 AKC trials on the Front Range vs 7 USDAA and 7 NADAC. Also, I loathe the AKC because of their politics and the lobbying they do, supporting puppy mills, etc. The thought of them getting even more money turns my stomach. In fact just reading the questions in the survey and they way they were worded turned my stomach. I felt so dirty by the time I was done.

However I did vote for them to allow the mixes in. Why? Because it's not always about me and my agenda. I have other options for competition, not a lot compared to AKC events but enough to keep me happy. Some people live in areas where they have no other option. I've heard of people who've ended up getting purebreds even though they would prefer mixes because AKC is their only option if they want to do agility. If letting mixes in AKC means a few more mutts from the shelter might go to performance homes I'm all for it even if it means a few more pennies in the AKC's grubby little paws. Also, how hurtful is it to be excluded from the agility community because you have a mixed breed dog? Telling someone to go do the other venues isn't very helpful if there are very few or none in your area. I've been trialing for around 4-5 years now and I still don't know a huge chunk of the agility community because they do only AKC. The people that I do know are great though, I can't even begin to list all the people who've helped me along the way and when I was so badly injured in the car crash I was touched by how many of them called to offer their sympathies and to walk my dogs or bring me whatever I might need. Again, I'm lucky to have found my way in, why should I vote to deprive others of the same joy of competing and camaraderie just because I have a bug up my butt about the AKC? Sure I feel dirty but it's nothing a nice long hot shower won't fix.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Seminar Videos

Finally got my videos from the seminar uploaded. I'm not sure there's much to be gleaned from them but maybe they're interesting to someone somewhere who's never seen Dartfish before. In the side by side videos, the one on the left was the first run. In both cases the second run (on the left) was faster. In the first set of runs Cody knocked the first bar on the second run because I took off from the start a bit too enthusiastically in an effort to get Cody to extend over the second jump. This was on suggestion from Julie but of course I went a bit over the top from what she was suggesting and took Cody by surprise causing him to knock the bar. We almost never have bar knocking issues so I didn't worry about it too much. I also pushed Cody out a bit after the front cross to set a better line for the turn before the weaves (again on Julie's suggestion) and this worked really nicely. Cody had a much smoother turn over the triple and cut closer to the wing.

It's interesting to pause the video, esp. on the side by side clips, to see the comparison.

The seocnd set of runs was even less interesting. The only thing I did differently on run 2 was to send Cody off to the second jump after the front cross and quickly turn and run down the line of jumps in an attempt to get him to turn tighter. Julie suggested that I could have turned and run even faster and she's probably right but I hate turning by back on Cody for too long. Something to practice. Those post turns are a challenge for us, I was surprised we didn't get the off course jump.

The last video was a simple 3 jump pinwheel using the 'strobe' feature. The purpose was to analyze jumping style which was interesting but more confirmed what I already suspected (Cody's got pretty good jumping form). It looks kind of cool anyway.

I did end up going for a ride yesterday and it was fantabulous. The same 2 hour ride on country dirt roads that I did last week and it felt a bit better, was a few minutes faster. However today's 30 minute run was pure torture. I haven't run on pavement in months and since most of the sidewalks in my neighborhood were finally clear I thought it would be a novelty to run on solid ground rather than sliding all over the remaining snow & mud on the trails. The first 10 minutes felt like someone was jabbing shards of glass into my knees and this finally gave way to the sensation of someone plunging a screwdriver into my low back. I wouldn't think it would have made all that much difference but apparently I need to ease back into running on concrete. It's been several months and I rarely run on it anyway so maybe it kind of makes sense but sheesh.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

All Lost in the Supermarket

Literally. The little local grocery store 4 blocks from my house reorganized the aisles and I can't find anything. This is especially disorienting at 7:45 am when you're not a morning person and in a rush on your way to work.

Tri and agility training have been confused and disoriented as well. I haven't been able to practice agility for 2 months now because the practice field is snowed in. I've been going to weekly classes but it's not the same as practice. I had a nice 2 hour ride in the sun last weekend but that's been about it except for a few short, grumpy half hearted sessions on the trainer. I've missed several master's workouts because I didn't want to drive to the pool across town then home again in a snow storm during rush hour. Missed an agility trial, missed several PT appointments for Lola, missed watching the herding at the stock show, skiing up in Eldora, etc. etc. all because of some issue with the weather. This has been the weirdest winter ever. Will things ever get back to normal?

One good thing out of all this has been the opportunity for snowshoe running. The soccer field by my office has remained buried all this time so I've been going out there a couple times a week and running laps in my snowshoes. It's turned out to be a great workout for my quads and gets the heart rate soaring while being easy on my knees. Trail running on the nice soft snow has been good too. I'm up to 30 minute runs with no issues at all and it's finally starting to feel like actual running again. When I started in December it took me 4:00-4:15 minutes per lap and now I'm down to 3:15-3:30. Of course the snow has melted quite a bit but for now I'm going to live with the delusion that I've actually improved just a wee bit.

In hopes of bringing some sort of focus to my training I've decided to enter the Canine Classic 5k out at the Boulder Rez in mid April. I'm not setting any time goals since I have absolutely no clue what I'm capable of. Instead this will be a baseline setting race. My last race was the Rudolph Ramble a year ago last December. I found my race report by accident the other day and it made me want to try racing again. My time was 28:22 and that was on snow/ice with stops for Lola to roll in the snow and to brush salt out of her paws. We'll see how April's race compares. That is if it ever stops snowing by then.

I don't think Lola will be able to race by then so I'm thinking I might take Strummer. He gets freaked out with crowds and loudspeakers but we've been working on this, taking him to cyclocross races last fall and walking him around the grounds of USDAA Nationals last Nov. as well as regular trials. He's still got a ways to go but this will be a nice thing to shoot for for him too. If he's not solid enough by race day I may have to drag poor Cody out of retirement. He hates running with me but I make him do it because it's good exercise for him. Lola loves racing with me so Cody's been off the hook all these years but Mr. Grumpy may have to put on his big boy pants and suck it up because I can't show up to a doggie race without a dog, how boring.

I want to move out of the geriatric lane at masters and I think I can do this in 4-6 weeks or so if I can manage to get to the pool twice a week. Right now I'm able to do a set of 10 100's on 2:05-2:10 (1:55 swim time and 10-15 seconds rest). I used to be able to do them on 1:50 (1:40 swim time) and that put me solidly in the next lane up so I have a ways to go.

Biking is getting the back seat right now. I'd like to get into a spinning class but there's no time for it right now and I have no discipline for the trainer. Hopefully my other training will pull me through until spring then I can dive back into it. I want to do the Winter Park Hill Climb in June if it doesn't interfere with the triathlon I have planned. Either way I want to get going on the bike at some point. Ugh, maybe I'll pile on all the clothes I own and brave the cold weather today. It's sunny and the wind's not howling so I have no excuse.

Oh and some time in there I need to get some dog training in. Strummer's going to be in vets by the time he gets to his first trial.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

15 Degrees, Feels Like 7

Yes, that's Fahrenheit folks. Glad I got a good bike ride and run in over the weekend because it's so nasty out there right now and is supposed to stay that way over the next few days. Is it Ground Hog Day yet? That fuzzy little bastard better have some good news or I'll, well I'll... Heck I don't know, what's a good threat for a ground hog? Maybe I'll send Bill Murray out his way.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

This Is The Modern World

Not too many posts lately, as it was I barely made it through the last two weeks by the skin of my teeth. I'd like to retire early so I have more time for all the fun stuff. I'd also like world peace and a pony while we're at it.

I didn't go to the NADAC trial on Saturday. It snowed on Weds. & Thurs. then an arctic cold front and high winds prevented much meltage. The winds were still raging Sat. morning and I didn't feel like risking the drive which is just under 2 hours in good weather, esp. since it was only for one day. I'd have had to go through areas that are notorious for bad conditions (white outs, rollovers, etc.) in windy weather and I wasn't up for it. Also didn't want to get stranded and miss the Julie Daniel's seminar on Sunday.

The road I needed to take to get to Golden on Sunday was still shut due to high winds/whiteout conditions so I had to leave extra early and take the long way round. What a pain, will this stupid weather never end?

I'm not exactly a technophobe but I'm slow to embrace most new forms of technology. I finally got a cell phone 9 months ago and only because I was travelling a lot by myself to agility trials. Jonny and I have the one cell phone between us and neither of us knows where it is 90% of the time. And nobody is ever going to convince me that CD's sound as good as vinyl. My first CD player cost around $90 and the DVD player was cheaper than that and I only bought them because the record stores and video rental places forced my hand.

However I love my video camera (but I don't want to marry it) for analysing my agility runs. One of these days I'll remember to take it to the pool so I can pick apart my strokes. So I thought it would be interesting to attend this Julie Daniels seminar that was using video and Dartfish software. The format of the seminar was such that we did a run of 6-7 obstacles then watched the video. After everyone had a turn and got some feedback from Julie we ran the same sequence again taking into account her suggestions and watched the video. Then we got to see our 2 sequences side by side in a split screen as well as overlayed on top of each other so we could compare. Now I think this was an interesting idea for a seminar and it was helpful to see video right after the run but the analysis of the videos dragged on and on and on. It took 2 hours to get through the first round of runs. The other problem, and this was my fault, was that this was an intermediate seminar since the advanced one had filled and I think it was a little too easy for us. Our runs went well so there wasn't much to analyze. In fact Cody was being freakishly good, paying complete attention to me and behaving the exact opposite that he does in trials. Where is this dog when we go in the ocmpetition ring??!! We learned a few things about setting lines which is a weak point for me so that part was good. Also got some tips on handling post turns which are another big weak point. I need to remember to shake my finger to get Cody's attention long before the turn happens. I'll post the videos next week once I get them and get a chance to upload.

The other reason I wanted to attend this seminar is that Julie wrote the book on jumping and agility and she had lots of success running a very long strided dog who often gets compared to Lola. I really wanted to take Lola to the seminar so I could get some insights into handling a big jumping dog but unfortunately she's still healing. Cody jumps really big too, often bigger and wider than Lola but for some reason he wasn't doing it at the seminar and in fact Julie was encouraging me to get him extending more in one of the exercises. Nonetheless it was interesting to have an expert look at his jumping style. She confirmed that he jumps well which amazes me since I never taught him anything. He's one of those naturally gifted jumpers and lucky for him since I had no idea what I was doing when we started out. Julie gave us some one jump exercises to work on to teach collection that are similar to exercises she's published in articles in Clean Run. I've read these articles but I was still doing them wrong so it was good to be able to learn how to finally do them right. Trying to learn something as technical as agility from a magazine is incredibly frustrating sometimes. I do so much better if someone can show me hands on what to do.

Overall Julie was very helpful. I liked that she didn't have an attitude and tried to keep things motivating for the dogs. One person did a blind cross for one of the exercises and rather than go into a long winded lecture about blind crosses being bad she gave the girl suggestions for making the blind cross better. She was fun to work with and I'd do another seminar with her but not with the video analysis. A private lesson would have been more useful, I prefer those to seminars anyway but that wasn't an option this time around. Now if only the agility field would melt so I could get out there and practice.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Kicking Ass At Masters

Still working on my post about the Julie Daniel's seminar this weekend but had to brag about my awesome masters practice tonight as I kicked my lanemate's ass all over the pool. Of course he was a senior citizen, about 30 years older than me, and I think a little bit 'special' as well. I am so cool.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Good Golly Miss Molly

Hope you're kicking butt wherever you are. Rock on girl.