Monday, May 28, 2007

It's Such A Gorgeous Sight

I’ve lived in Boulder over 16 years now and sometimes I still can’t believe how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place. Three weeks in a row of agility trials has left me a bit burnt out so I decided to give it a rest last week and try to get my butt up into the mountains a bit more. Saturday I went for a run on the Mesa Trail, or more accurately some of the lesser used trails that branch off of it. I started off at the back door of Chatauqua away from the maddening crowds of tourists and wound my way up the relatively quiet Enchanted Mesa to the nearly deserted Skunk Canyon. The wildflowers on Enchanted Mesa were spectacular, I’ve never seen such a huge display of color bursting out everywhere. Coming up to the top of a hill I was greeted by a postcard view of the Flatirons with wildflowers as far as the eye could see just as the line ‘it’s such a gorgeous sight’ from The Cure came trickling through my headphones. Yes Mr. Smith I do agree though I’m sure this scene it not at all what he had in mind when he penned the song.

It’s a steep but short descent down into Skunk Canyon then another steep climb out to join up to the Mesa Trail. I had the joint to myself, running into just one person running with a dog. I turned off the MP3 player to enjoy the sounds of the birds and the peacefulness of the woods & the canyon. I can hardly believe all of this is only a 12 minute drive from my house and I don’t come here nearly as often as I should.

I headed south on the Mesa Trail to a steep descent and decide to head back. I’m trying to be sensible about adding on mileage esp. when it’s hilly trails. I went back north on the Mesa Trail and turned off onto Enchanted Mesa which is less crowded and nicer than the Mesa Trail. The whole thing took an hour and a few seconds which is what is normally takes me when I’m not in super great shape. I’m not pushing for speed at all on runs where I’m trying to build distance but I have been trying to push the pace a little on my shorter early morning runs these days.

I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera so I came back on Monday with Jonny & Strummer for a leisurely hike. The pictures didn’t come out as nice as I’d hoped but I still can’t figure out my stupid digital camera for the life of me. I’ve been thinking of getting a nicer one and a friend who just bought a fancy Canon brought it over to my house so I could try it out and the pictures I took still looked like crap. I think I need to break down and sign up for a class but yeah I have time for that.

Sunday Jonny & I went up to Buffalo Creek/Wellington Lake so I could pre-ride the bike course for my triathlon next month. It’s only 10 miles and as it turns out about 7-8 miles is on dirt roads. The few miles of single track are smooth and completely rideable though there are some steep climbs with a few tightish switchbacks. It’s a beautiful trail though a bit eerie as it climbs through an area that was hit by a terrible wildfire some years ago. There were some wildflowers and groundcover that have regrown but the burnt out trees remain. It was pretty cool though I’m concerned about passing during the race since it’s very narrow in places. I’m afraid I’ll end up with a trail of riders stuck behind me because there’s nowhere to let them pass and I’m not stopping on a steep narrow hillside anyway.

The singletrack is in the middle of the course and the first 3 miles are a steep descent on a dirt road that’s mostly in good condition but has some bad deep ruts and is partly washed away in places. It was no problem riding it on my own but with other riders there it could get tricky to pick a line past the ruts. The other problem with this is that I have to come back up the same steep dirt road at the end of the ride. Did I mention this road was steep? It took me 34 minutes to climb a measly 3 miles. I said a lot of bad words on the way back up. The best part is that I get to run afterwards. Better start doing some hill climb bricks. Not that that’s going to help all that much at this point.

Since the course was only 10 miles and we’d driven nearly 2 hours to get there we decided to do some extra credit on the Colorado Trail. Beautiful sweet singletrack as far as the eye could see, I’d much prefer riding this to the horrible steep dirt road but it’s completely not practical for a race. Oh well. This will be an experience but I doubt I’ll repeat it next year. I’d rather ride my bike for fun on really nice trails all summer than race on dirt roads.
The photos were all taken from Enchanted Mesa trail in Boulder with views of the Flatirons (with wildflowers in foreground) and Skunk Canyon. I apologize for the hodge podge layout, Blogger does that and I don't know how to control it (doesn't look that way when I lay it out). You can click on any photo for a larger view.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Photos From Pueblo

Here's a link to some photos from the trial: pix

Lola looks like an enormous red & white pony on the dogwalk. There are more photos from another photographer but it's harder to link to just my photos on her site.

Of course now we're getting cooler weather and even more of course 3" of snow fell on the trail where my triathlon will be in a few weeks and I wanted to up there this weekend to check out the bike portion. I never made it up there as planned a few weeks ago because of heavy rain at the time. Maybe by Sunday things will have dried out enough & the trail will be perfect. Haven't been on my bike in weeks due to weather and agility trials and I won't be able to ride the weekend before the race so it will be interesting. At least I had the sense to sign up for the sprint and not the full Xterra. Surely I can fake my way through 10 miles, even if it is trails.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Under the Big Black Sun

Another hot weekend of agility, this time down in Pueblo which is a 2 1/4 hour drive to the south so it gets even hotter down there than in the Denver/Boulder area. Last year it went up to the 100's and Cody looked so miserable after the 4th obstacle of his standard run that I left the ring so I guess I should have been happy it only went up to the mid 80's. Cody had a great day on Saturday, picking up Q's in 3/4 of his classes. He had a beautiful Gamblers run, taking 2nd place and an even better run in the Grand Prix picking up 3rd place and his second Q to qualify for nationals. The timer didn't go off for our Grand Prix run so the timer started the clock late manually. The judge decided to add 2 seconds to our time and I was perfectly happy with that because we were still way under time with a clean run but in the end we were fractions of a second off 2nd place and I can't help but wonder where we really came out. The first place dog was 8 seconds ahead and the 4th place dog had faults so it was close enough, just funny that we were so close. We even picked up a Q in pairs but by the skin of our teeth since Cody blew the dogwalk contact, his only blown contact of the whole trial. He got a tricky weave pole entry so I can't complain.

Sunday was another matter and we only Q'd in Snooker though he had a nice Gamblers run if only he hadn't added an extra jump to the Gamble. Both standard runs had issues with the table for both dogs. They both hate laying down on it in the hot sun and Sat. they both hopped on, hopped off, hopped on again and eventually laid down. I didn't want to take them out to reward that so we kept going but in retrospect maybe I should have. It's hard to say what they would interpret the reward was for. On Sunday Lola flat out refused to lay down and I could see her poor brain freezing up so I calmly excused ourselves and led her out of the ring. No reward for her but I didn't want to continue on with the course because I could tell she was stressed so it wouldn't have gone well anyway. I also don't want her to think she can freeze on the table like that then get to go on eventually. Cody paused a moment or so but then went quickly down so I took him out and gave him a big reward. I've signed up for a fun match in a couple of weeks so hopefully they'll have a table and we can work on this a bit.

Lola's only Q was in Snooker but she had a nice Grand Prix run, just a refusal at the weaves and a little misunderstanding that caused a run by at a jump that I didn't bother to fix. I didn't enter her in everything since she's still just coming back. I think once we get more practice in she'll get back into the swing of things.

I drove down to the trial on Friday for the first time as an experiment. I usually get up at 4 am on Sat. to drive down and spend the rest of the day tired & crabby and we don't do that well. I'm not a morning person. I didn't sleep all that well in the hotel on Friday because there were kids running up & down the stairs screaming until 10-10:30 pm (Why are my dogs better behaved in hotels than most people's kids? Don't these parents care about the other hotel guests? How can they live with that screaming all the time?) but I still felt better in the morning than I normally do after waking up so early & driving for 2 1/4 hours and I had a lot more energy during the day so I think I'll plan on doing that more often.

We did have cooler, cloudier weather on Sunday afternoon for Jumpers & Gamblers and it did make a difference in the dogs' energy & enthusiasm. I tried keeping them cool with cooler coats and hosing Cody down (Lola's scared of the hose) but there's something about that sun beating down that saps their will a bit.

Overall a very fun trial and nice diversion from some weird stuff that went down at work last week. I almost didn't go to the trial because I was so preoccupied with what was/is happening that I thought I wouldn't be able to concentrate properly on the dogs but in the end it worked out to be a good distraction. Unfortunately it's back to reality for now. I haven't had a day off since Jan. 1st and I'm really looking forward to the upcoming 3 day weekend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hot Hot Hot

We had near record breaking heat with temps. in the mid 80's for this weekend's USDAA trial. I wasn't expecting too much because both dogs can get stressy & shut down in the heat, esp. Cody, and it's too early for such heat so they're not even properly acclimated. But they both ran great despite the weather, no Q's somehow but some really nice runs nonetheless and no motivational issues whatsoever. Someone from my training field even commented about how nice & smooth Cody was running and how he didn't seem stressed at all (and she's seen him shut down in the heat before). His contacts were awful for Gamblers, which was the first run, so I kept making him redo them until he settled down. The rest of the trial he was about 50/50. He's got such nice contacts at practice, I can leave him and run the other way across the field and he'll stop and wait to be released. Wish we had more fun matches, it's the only thing that seems to work. The only other issue we had was the weaves. Cody missed just about every entry and they were all pretty easy. I suspect something may be up with his back, I'll have to make time to have it checked out.

Lola's return to trialing went well. She was happy & focused. She missed a contact or two and was having weave issues as well but I've barely done any weaving with her as I wanted to add that back gradually. She got half of a pretty hard gamble and did well in standard on Sat. On Sun. standard run she had a barking fit on the table and refused to lie down and we'd already had a fault so once she finally did lay down I took her out of the ring to reward her for finally going down. Again, without many fun matches there's not much else I can do about the table. She runs across the field to get to the table at practice these days I've been working it so much. Both she & Cody had great snooker runs but missed the weaves at #6 in the closing. It was a weird snooker course and I was thrilled to even make it to the closing since we had to run past lots of obstacles to get to the final red & closing. It was my favorite class of the whole trial. Snooker's such fun when it all goes according to plan.

No Q's in the tourney events, Lo had an off course in the Grand Prix because she was running so fast I ended up too far behind for the move I had planned. Can't remember exactly where Cody's run went wrong but I'm pretty sure it was fine up until the weaves. His Speed Jumping run was a complete comedy right from the start and I didn't enter Lola. No Jumpers for Lola either which was a shame because she would have liked the course but Cody had an awesome run. I caused a knocked bar at the very start but other than that it was a kick in the pants run on a nice wide open (for USDAA) course.

Lots of nice courses this weekend but not a lot of Q's in general for the trial (masters had only 4 Q's total and Perf. had 1 in Sat. Standard). Cody took first place with 5 faults (stupid dogwalk contact) in a relatively large Standard class. One other interesting statistic-Perf. Speed Jumping had faster qualifying times than Championship Steeplechase for all jump heights. Only 3 Q's went out in my jump height and they were blazing fast. I doubt we'd have Q'ed even if we had run clean.

I had an unplanned day of rest after the trial yesterday as I came down with some nasty food poisoning on Monday morning and had to leave work sharpish. I'm not sure how I made it home without having to pull over but somehow I managed, just. After about 4-5 hours of misery I suddenly felt o.k. A bit of queasiness when I woke up this morning but lunch went down just fine and I think I'll try to go to masters tonight. One more USDAA trial next weekend then nothing until July 4th weekend. Well, no trials anyway, I have a triathlon and a trip to Chicago coming up so I'll still be busy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Confess

I'm liking my new chiropractor and massage therapist but man they must have recruited the massage therapist from Abu Ghraib. All she has to do is press on my back in the right place and the pain is so blinding I'm ready to confess to crimes that were committed before I was born. My back & neck feel so good after she's done though so when she asks me if the pressure she's applying is o.k. I grit my teeth, fight back the tears and tell her oh it's just fine may I please have some more. The stupid things I do to be able to move properly.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Slip n Slide

Half day of NADAC today on a beautiful cool (40's-50's) sunny morning. I only signed up for 2 rounds of Elite Standard for Cody and Tunnelers for both Lola & Cody, hoping to be finished by mid-morning but thunder & lightening shut down the works yesterday so they had to make up a round of Novice Standard which delayed everything by almost an hour. Still I was done by 10:40 am even with the delay and felt a bit guilty taking off without working even a single class but the whole point of the limited entry was to not spend the whole day there and I wanted to take some time to work on Strummer's crazy lunging barking fits at dogs running in the ring during the spare moments that I had. I found someone else from my training field doing the exact same thing so I didn't feel too bad. We both usually work a lot as a general rule so I guess it wasn't so horrible.

I've decided to retire Cody from NADAC, if not entirely then at least from events that have contact equipment. Ironically enough this is for safety reasons. Cody had terrible problems with the A-frame and dogwalk when NADAC removed the slats and lowered the A-frame. He'd smack into the front side of the A-frame like a bug on a windscreen then slide down the downside on his butt. First time on a slatless dogwalk and he slid straight down on all fours, out of control. I went so far as to buy a slatless A-frame and it took months to get him to do it safely. I don't have access to a slatless dogwalk and I'm not buying one. After watching him bail off just about every single contact today I've decided it's likely because he can't control himself without the slats. He had perfect contacts at the last USDAA trial and at the seminar where slatted equipment was used. He only bails consistently at NADAC trials and he sometimes jumps from quite high up. Some of his leaps are outright dangerous. I think it's leading to confusion on his part about his contact performance in the ring as well. I noticed other dogs slipping on the equipment including one in particular that slipped down the A-frame on his butt then slid down the dog walk and face planted at the bottom. Slatless equipment is not for all dogs, despite what the proponents say.

Both standard courses today were so easy with just 2 changes of side but I still managed to muck them up. I botched a serpentine, Cody missed a weave pole entrance then blew both contacts and I'm sure there was an off course thrown in there somewhere for good measure. He broke his start line on the 2nd run and took an immediate off course on the A-frame which he bailed so I decided to have him redo the A-frame then was out of position and confused for the rest of the course. How is that I can Q on those tough USDAA masters courses and can't manage a simple, straightforward NADAC course that by now I should be able to do with my eyes closed?

Tunnelers went much better. I didn't hang around to find out their placements but both dogs Q'ed and had a great time. Cody had a beautiful smooth run several seconds below course time. Miss Lola was absolutely flying and nearly took me out when she came rocketing out of a straight tunnel and into my side. I should listen to those nagging doubts more often as I'd walked the course and thought 'If I handle it this way she's going to take me down' yet I handled it that way anyway. It's a wonder Mensa hasn't called. In any case she had an otherwise beautiful run and was rocketing through those tunnels with a big stupid grin on her face. Overall she seemed so happy to be back at a trial and there was no hint of any problems with her. This week we'll try a full course at practice and see how she does.

My big lesson for the day, aside from listening to those nagging doubts, is that yes I can make it there for that front cross most of the time, I have to trust myself a little more. Also, I need to be very clear with Cody at the start line. He rarely breaks his start line and if he does it's usually out of stress. In fact he'll sometimes freeze on the start line and it's all I can do to get him to start. But today I think he broke it because he misunderstood and thought I'd cued him to go. I kept up a good connection with him at the start of Tunnelers and led out almost an entire tunnel length no problem.

There's a new DOCNA trial coming in August and I think we're going to try it instead of the August NADAC trial. I've never done DOCNA before but I'm thrilled to have an alternative and eager to give another venue a try.

No biking this weekend due to the weather and my run today was pure crap. Made it to both masters practices this week but it feels like I'll never get any better. That's the trouble with swimming, progress seems so slow then all of sudden I notice an improvement. I got thrown in with the sharks in a faster lane this week so that didn't help. Hopefully by the end of the month I'll be able to keep up.