Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where the dogs and the antelope play

Jonny and I took a little stealth vacation to Utah for a USDAA trial and then a trip through Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming on the way home. I have photos, I have video, I have lots to write about but dangit I'm tired after all that so it will take me a while and maybe multiple posts to get it all out.

One of the cool things about Wyoming is all the antelope.

It's a 7 1/2 hour drive to Salt Lake City but we took maybe 9 1/2 hours with all our stops. We stopped for a photo op with the creepy gigantic statue of Lincoln at a rest stop off of I-80 just east of Laramie, WY. This statue sent Lola into a tantrum the first time she saw it.

Yeah, I know, I'm shooting into the sun and the photo is crappy but I can hardly ask the statue to move and I'm an idiot with my camera so if there's a way to compensate I have no idea. In any case you get the idea of the monstrosity of this thing. I'm oddly fascinated with it.

We stopped again in Laramie for lunch at a great vegetarian cafe which has fabulous food but takes for freaking ever so by the time we left Laramie we were 3 1/2 hours into our trip and Laramie is only 2 hours away. Oh well, we were in no hurry.

The drive from the western end of WY through the canyon to UT is amazingly beautiful. I had no idea. SLC is a beautiful city as well though I didn't go right into the city itself but it's got mountains coming right up to it's eastern suburbs. The trial was at a horse facility in a southeastern suburb that was probably out in the middle of nowhere no too long ago but is now heavily engulfed in sprawl. Strip mall city. But still it felt like the mountains were towering right next to us and even the view from the hotel parking lot was beautiful.

The trial site was wonderful, lots of shade to crate in and the mountains in the background for scenic effect.

If you continue up the road past the trial site you get a spectacular unobstructed view of the mountains. Of course I discovered this when I didn't have my camera with me and I meant to go back there to take a photo but in all the hubbub of the trial it didn't quite happen.

So you want to know how the trial went? Ugh, I knew we'd get to that sooner or later. We drove up on Saturday while they were doing Team and I figured I'd wake up Sunday all rested up from the drive and ready to go. Unfortunately I didn't fall asleep until nearly 11 pm and Cody startled me out of a sound sleep and disturbing dream at 5:15 am or so by pouncing on me with his front feet. He almost never does anything like that so I figured he needed out like now. I barely fell back to sleep when the alarm woke me up. I started the day in a groggy, dizzy, disoriented haze and never quite came out of it. Thus, you can imagine how the day went. It was such a comedy of errors that really all I could do was laugh at the end of it all.

One of the Q's I cared most about was Snooker for Cody. He has a zillion regular snooker Q's still needs 3 super Q's. Oh, and we have a former world team dog in our class who's really good at snooker so I have to really go for it. Snooker is a bad thing for first thing in the morning anyway, at least give me a chance to let the fog clear before I have to think. This snooker course was particularly challenging with a threadle for the #6 obstacle in the closing and no good way to get ahead of your dog to manage it. Then of course there's a jump/weave combination for the #7 obstacle. I was still puzzling over my opening and how to handle the threadle when the judge called 'first dog on the line in 1 minute'. Oh yes folks, that would be me and Cody. And I was crated at the opposite end of the field, at least a 1-2 minute walk each way if I hustled which is fun when you have a sore foot and knee. It was only 7:52 and I figured we'd have until 8:00 to walk the course so I was a bit surprised to say the least. I scrambled from the ring and warmed Cody up as best I could, meanwhile trying to go over my plan in my head. Needless to say I made it through 3 reds and then something somewhere went oh so wrong. I then had to hoof it back to the set up to get Lola since there weren't all that many dogs in the class. I handled Lola much better and she was having a lovely run until I sent her over a red and the judge blew his whistle. Actually it was not a red I had sent her over but rather the finish line jump. I had walked the course thinking the finish line jump was a red. This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day.

It turned out to be a hot day, low to mid 90's, which is never a great thing for my dogs especially when it comes to the table. Both dogs flat out refused to lie down on the table so both our Standard runs ended there. I was hoping to get a quick down so I could release and run out of the ring to reward but no dice.

I thought for sure we would redeem ourselves in pairs. I can usually keep it together for 10-11 obstacles and we usually do o.k. in that class. First off one of my partners was out with an injured dog so the gate steward told me to pick a partner off the gate sheet. I stood there ummmming for a minute because I'm from out of town and don't know most of these people and then thankfully Stacy Peardot happened to be standing there and offered up her husband who is also a really incredible handler to run as accommodating dog. I balked at that until I realized that he's not getting a Q anyway so I can't screw him up so hey, yeah, I will accept that very generous offer. Still, it's a bit intimidating to run with the top handler and the impeccably trained dog when you have a Cody Baloney for a partner and you're not so coordinated and easily confused yourself. Plus you're clearly having 'one of those days'.

Lola's run was first and we made it through the tricky opening only to have me forget a jump on a fairly straightforward sequence to a tunnel. Why oh why did I have to do that for pairs? Isn't it embarrassing enough to forget the course when it's only you?

Cody & I made it through the tricky opening then he ran right past the weaves. Yes, I gave him plenty of warning, yes he was set up with a nice path, yes we've been practicing this very thing most mornings before work in the backyard. Still, he ran right past them. But I got him back in and we're fast enough that maybe we'll be o.k. This time I remembered the jump but I was way too late cuing a turn and he took off for an off course tire that only Cody would spot. I noticed this when I walked the course but didn't manage it during the run as I was rattled from missing the jump during Lola's run and focused too much on that. It's extra fun to screw up when you have the fabulous dog & handler team helping you out.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had that agility dream where you're chilling out at your tent well away from the ring and next thing you know there are loud screams from the ring calling you to the line. You don't even know what class is running and you sure didn't get your walk through. I pinched myself repeatedly but unfortunately this time it was not a dream. I thought they were running Steeplechase Finals which is what was listed in the running order and I was so far from the ring that I couldn't see or hear what was going on. I had made so many trips back and forth from the ring and it was so hot and my knee was getting sore so I was trying no to neurotically go back & forth too much. It turns out they'd run the finals yesterday on the same day as Round 1. I've never ever heard of this but there you go. So it was in fact master jumpers running and I had in fact missed the walk-through and was being summoned to the line. I grabbed Cody & ran to the ring. They had started without me and the gate steward was so nice and said I could run one dog at the end of the 22's then run the other at the end of the Perf. 16' and right before the Champ. 22's. I couldn't walk of course and I didn't even have a course map on me but pffffbbbttt we don't need no stinkin' walk through, we'll just watch the few remaining dogs and wing it. Which might have been a doable plan if this was standard (I did that once no problem when Cody was in starters) but master jumpers?? Yeah, you can imagine how that went. Trying to run and handle a tricky jumpers course while reading the number cones is not a recommended style of handling. I made it through about 10 obstacles then sent Cody off course while trying to read a number cone. We kept going like we knew what we were doing and I made it up as we went along. Cody was none the wiser and we had a fast fun run. By the time it was Lola's turn I had a better idea of the course and I think I ran it properly but she ran past a jump somewhere and I didn't go back to fix it so no Q but it sure looked & felt smooth. Q's are overrated anyway. Jonny spotted that bumper sticker in the parking lot and kept pointing it out to me. Anybody else with a sarcastic spouse feel my pain? No no, I'm not complaining. He took vacation days and drove all that way to sit around an agility trial in 95 degree heat so I can hardly complain. The woman crated next to me told me I had such nice smooth runs but it was a shame I'd walked the course incorrectly. All I could do was laugh.

I think that's the first time ever that both dogs were completely shut out of Q's on the same day. What a flaky day and the dogs seemed a bit out of sorts as well. Maybe they were tired from the trip and loopy with the heat as well. Lola in particular did not seem all that happy during her standard run which was the second class. I thought I might pull her from jumpers but she seemed o.k. during pairs and I wanted to end the day on a high note as she usually likes jumpers. Ah well, what can you do but laugh?

I didn't sleep all that well Sunday night but I woke up Monday determined to keep my wits about me and have a serious, focused kick ass day of dog agility. I had Jonny bring me a mocha when he went for coffee for himself. I usually ban myself from having caffeine of any kind during agility trials because it makes me nervous & jittery and all sorts of other bad things that don't typically lead to a good day of focused kick ass dog agility. But I thought maybe the sugar & caffeine would jolt me awake and jump start my brain a bit.

I felt plenty awake for Gamblers which was the first class and thankfully I was not first dog on the line. It was an easy gamble for both my dogs so all I had to do was pick a simple opening and time it properly. Unfortunately Cody took an extra jump which happened to be 2 gamble obstacles in reverse order so even though I timed it perfectly and he got the gamble we got no Q. Lola missed her dogwalk and A-frame contact so again even though I timed it perfectly and she got the gamble we ended up one stinkin' point short of the required opening points so no Q. But at least I felt like my brain was working and the dogs seemed more relaxed than yesterday.

Standard again was all about the table. Cody had a beautiful clean run going up until the table. I did eventually get him into a down but he was wound up after that and ended up with an off course the details of which I will spare you. Lola took one look at the table, pinned back her ears and ran around it so I said to heck with it, no way I'm getting into an argument over it in 95 degree heat so I didn't even try to get her on it. Poor thing looked so upset about it. I got her going for the rest of her run though and she ended it up fast & happy. I realize I'm teaching her that she can avoid the table and get to keep going but I was more concerned with her motivation and getting her fast & happy in the ring so I didn't want to take her out right at the table. I did that yesterday and obviously it did no good, in fact might have made things worse.

Grand Prix was the final class of the trial and this was the other Q that I cared most about. Lola still needed a Q to qualify for Regionals and this was her last chance. The course looked fast and fun, a good course for both my dogs if only I could keep my head about me. My heart was racing and I was jittery from all the caffeine and sugar and I was wondering if I'd made a good decision there but it was too late to do anything about it. I felt confident about my plan, watched the CH dogs for trouble spots and the only one I saw was something someone had pointed out during the walk-through so I'd planned for it. The only part I wasn't sure about was the last 2 obstacles, the dreaded dogwalk to jump at the end. I think our success rate on that particular challenge during a trial is something like 8% (NADAC loves that particular challenge for some reason and we've had plenty of practice blowing it). I think both dogs have only ever got it once.

Cody was up first and had a beautiful, smooth clean run. He got that contact at the end, just. I'll have to watch the video but I'm guessing it was super close. I hung way way back behind and told him 'ease up there buddy' which doesn't mean anything to him but I thought maybe some calm words would calm him down and for once he slowed & collected himself instead of launching from mid-plank.

Lola was up next and she popped out of the weaves poles (3rd obstacle). She was zooming through them no problem then about halfway through came to a stop and ran off the sniff at something. I finally had my head enough about me to remember that in USDAA you can have the dog re-enter the poles wherever they left so I called her to me, sent her back in and she continued on no problem. The rest of the run was beautiful and she hit all her contacts. She was plenty fast so even with the detour she was still well under time and got her Q just by the hair of her chinny chin chin.

The icing on the cake was that Cody won the Grand Prix so he's got a bye into the finals at Regionals. I'm excited about that. Lola ended up in 2nd place. We ended the trial with only 2 Q's but they were the ones that counted. Plus the last runs of the day finally felt connected and good.

I've got video and photos from our drive through Medicine Bow but those will have to wait for another post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stacy Master Handling Workshop

(Click on map for larger version).

I took Lola on a trip up to Fort Collins for a Stacy Peardot master handling workshop last Saturday afternoon. It wasn't at her place but rather at a field in town so we were outdoors on grass, hot (80's), full sun, slight breeze. It wasn't miserable but it was hot enough to muddle my brain a wee bit and slow Lola down. There was a ditch to cool off in but the amount of shallow shore was small and Lola refuses to swim so she didn't have a whole lot of room to work with and had a long standoff with her tennis ball when it drifted just out of reach.

The actual course that we ran was changed a bit from the original course map so I had to redraw a portion of it for the map I've posted here (mostly #12-15) so it's not exactly as we ran it but you get the idea. We broke it down into 3 sections, running it ourselves then going back for analyses then running it again with the new ideas in mind. I was happy with myself for figuring out a few of the handling challenges myself but ended up making some not so great choices for the last part of the course (#13-#18). I started of running with Lo at #1 (no leadout), front crossed between #2 and #3, kept her on my right for #4 and #5 and front crossed the threadle between #5 & #6. This required some running but I made the cross in time no problem and had some nice tight turns. I kept her on my left up until #9, slowed before the jump to cue the wrap and had her wrap to her right, picking her up on my left then sent her to the poles. Kept her on my right through #14 (it was almost a little push out for some dogs to get in the #14 tunnel, some dogs took the other tunnel entry esp. if the handlers got too far behind). Picked her up on my left, wrapped #15, had her on my right for #15 -#17 and that's where I ran into trouble. My though was to keep her on my right and run with her to the weaves, flipping her in when we got there and also blocking the very inviting #3 tunnel. However I couldn't get Lo to turn into #17 and she ran past, headed for #8. Stacy pointed out this was also a bad plan (I wasn't the only one that had it) because in setting the line to the weaves you're in the dog's way if he's on your right and thus he has to enter the weaves at a shallower angle. Front cross so he's on your left and he has more room to get a better turn into the weaves. I kept her on my left through the weaves and turned her away from me for #19 then turned back toward #20, that part was not a problem for most if not all handlers.

Stacy had an interesting way to handle the opening that hadn't occured to me but worked really well (once we practiced a few tunnel sends). Start with dog on your left and front cross between #2 and #3 as I had done then send the dog to the tunnel and turn around running towards the #10 end of the weaves and pick up the dog on your right between #4 & #5 as she comes out of the tunnel. Then you have oodles of time to make the cross between #5 and #6. At first Lo wouldn't send to the tunnel even with me supporting the send with my arm out. Stacy pointed out that when she wouldn't go I gave up right away and told me to try holding my ground until she got it, something I always do at Gamblers don't know why I gave up so easily here. After 2-3 tries she got the idea. One handler led out and stood near the #10 end of the weaves and sent her dog to the tunnel from there from a stand still and Stacy pointed out that this was teaching the dog to ignore your motion. The idea was to run a bit of the way to the tunnel with the dog and support the send with motion, not turning the other way until the dog was committed. I had to go maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to the tunnel with Lola and I still had plenty of time to pick her up on her way out of the tunnel and make my cross. It was a lot faster than running the whole way down the weaves to the #18 end and picking her up there.

She suggested handling the rest of the course as I had up until #16. Initially she suggested a front cross between #16 and #17 but after seeing someone do a front cross on the landing side of #17 she suggested that that would be better. I had a bit of problem with this at first because again Lola wasn't getting the turn cue quickly enough since I was drifting too far downstream before turning for the cross. Trouble was I had to stay back behind #15 to cue the wrap to #16 so I was behind for getting in place on the landing side of #17. Stacy pointed out that I didn't need to give her all that much room to get over #17 and that I could start my cross much sooner, before getting all the way to the other jump stanchion. It felt funny because I had to turn my back to her and trust her to take that #17 jump but if I was early enough with the start of my cross she read it no problem.

Setting a line to the #18 poles wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I missed it the first time, partly because I was still thinking about how cool it was that she'd taken the jump and wasn't concentrating on where I was going but she got it after that. Some dogs sucked in to the tunnel if the handler didn't turn early enough to cue the weaves. Some handlers cued too early in an effort to avoid the tunnel or approached at too shallow an angle and missed the weave entry. The rest of the course was fairly straight forward.

A fun afternoon and Lola did really well in the hot relentless sun. She had a few moments of distraction/stress sniffing at the starts of her runs but I was able to get her back on task fairly quickly and while she was running she did a nice job of paying attention and keeping with the plan. I even got her excited enough to bark and sass at me a few times, silly girl. I feel much better about handling her now after our long lay off. My foot didn't interfere with my running so that helped of course. My foot still hurts but I can shift my weight to the outside and off the surgical site when I'm running. This is likely the cause of my knee problems but that's a whole 'nuther post and I won't whine about it right now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Driving Lessons

Do the Hustle

Strum had his second agility lesson on Weds. night. This time the whole hour went to him partly because storms were possible and Lola hates thunder but also because it's something of a challenge to have 2 dogs at work when one of those dogs is Strummer.

The Trouble Twins

They're not that bad but one is so much easier and of course on the very rare occasion that they do decide to misbehave at the same time it's in front of a client or my boss or, if I'm really lucky, both. I was really lucky last week so decided to keep it to one dog this week. An hour turned out to be too long of a lesson for him so I'll be back to twofers next week or maybe I'll find someone to split my lesson with. I think Strum's ready to start working with one other dog in the field.

We started out with what should have been a simple jumping lesson-a gentle arc of 5 or 6 jumps heading into a tunnel. The jumps started out with one slightly staggered then the amount of stagger would increase. The idea was to teach Strum to look for jumps. First off, Strum has never worked with more than 3 jumps at a time or more than 2 in a row so this was way more difficult than I thought it would be. We started off with just 2 or 3 jumps then increased by a jump each rep. First Strum didn't want to send to the tunnel, something I know about and have been working on. I have to run right up to the tunnel entrance. Joy gave me some good tips on how to work on this and we've been practising but not a whole lot. Then when we got up to 4 jumps or so he would jump then look at me and miss the next jump, running right by it. Or he'd take 2 jumps then run by the 3rd. Part of the problem was that I was running right next to the jump standards, crowding and confusing him and of course drawing even more attention to myself. I finally managed to convince mysslf to run a fair distance out from the jumps but he was still missing them. It took a lot of reps and a lot of running (oh poor knee) before we finally got it. Let us not even discuss how fast Strum is. I thought Lola was a little red rocket dog (she's slowed a lot now that she's older) but this guy needs a 20 year old with good reflexes to run him, not an old lady with bad feet and gimpy knees. I think maybe my next dog will be a Bassett Hound.

We worked a bit on the teeter. Strum can do a full height teeter now but I'm having trouble fading the liver paste at the end of the teeter. If there's nothing there then he does any number of things but none of which is correct, ie stop at the end with all 4 feet on and wait for release. After trying many things with a low teeter Joy had the idea of teaching him a verbal for his stop at the end and keep with the liver paste until he starts to learn the word because that's the best way to get him to stop in the perfect position. Once he's got a word it will be easier to fade the paste because I can tell him what he needs to do. Shaping this with a board on the ground would be too confusing for him because of the running contact work we're doing already with a board on the ground.

As far as the weaves go, Strum can easily weave 6 poles with the channels closed and we've been working on entries. I've been using 2-3 poles so I can click just the entries and also because he was having a problem with diving into the space between poles 2 & 3 and missing the entry. I showed it to Joy and her diagnosis was that he was not collecting at all, even with just a few feet to run before the entry. She suggested a wire guide on the 1st and 2nd poles which is easy enough since I have some at home. I was avoiding them because I'm trying not to have to fade props but we'll give it a try and see if it helps.

The last thing we worked on was the 'Turn' cue, which means turn away from me. I started out teaching this on the flat with a hand signal but decided I didn't want a hand signal with it so we've been working on getting just a verbal with no body language cues. I'm pretty close I think, I don't need an arm at all but it's possible he's still cueing off of some subtle motion like a slight deceleration when we're walking in anticipation of the turn. I tried running with him then saying 'turn' and he had no clue so we need more practice. I want to start working with a jump standard though and I was having some problems so I asked Joy for some help. She told me to approach the jump standard at an angle rather than straight on and it worked a charm. She also had me practice with a tunnel, walking parallel to it then verbally turning him into the entrance, like coming off a dogwalk and turning away into the tunnel. He got that straight away but I think I was cheating a bit and using slight arms/body cues to help. More homework for us.

I stopped for food & gas on the way home and by the time I got home it was after 8:00 pm. By the time we had dinner both Strum and I were flat out on the couch/floor. It's the first time I've ever seen him too tired to do anything else. And I overslept the next morning and missed my early morning swim practice out at the Reservoir. Plus we won't talk about the swelling in my knee. I wonder how many bags of ice I can fit in my freezer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rider Up

I wasn't go to let a little thing like stabbing knee pain keep me from my Sunday ride. I've got agility things planned for the next 4 weekends (how did that happen??!!) so I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to ride with Jonny and some friends at Centennial Cone. I love this trail because the scenery is gorgeous and the trail is about 90% rideable for me. The wildflowers were fantabulous and it was a beautiful day. My knee held up until the last 20 minutes or so of a 2 hour ride and it only screamed a bit so there was no need for a dramatic rescue. Normally the trail can be done as a loop but part of the trail was closed due to migrating elk so we had to do an out and back. This was fine with me because I thought the full 12 mile/2 hour or so loop might have been too much but as it turned out I did close to that anyway because of where we turned around. Luckily Jeanne had the sense to suggest turning around or I would have kept going until my knee hurt then had to ride all the way back. I get caught up in the beauty of the trail and it's often hard for me to have the sense to turn around before I get tired. I'm kind of stupid that way.

Here's a picture of my friend Jeanne kicking butt on the trail:

There were lots of places I wanted to stop for photos but it's tough when you're riding with a group, especially when you're bringing up the rear.

My knee wasn't horribly sore for the rest of the day but it wasn't great either so I've not been running this week and trying to cut down on the walking. It's hard with the dogs though, they need their morning walkies and running is such a good way to keep them in shape. I feel bad not being able to take them. But I've got an agility workshop this weekend with Stacy Peardot then a trial in UT the weekend after that then the Susan Garrett seminar (no running at the one, phew) then Regionals so I need my knee not to give out on me right now thankyouverymuch. My worry is that there's another cyst developing in my bad knee which is on the same leg as my bad foot and it's being brought on by my walking/running funny due to my foot being sore. I've not been doing nearly enough exercise for this to be an overuse type injury. I looked up the number of the doctor that did my knee surgery but I was nauseous at the thought of calling him so I'm going to try resting for the week and if it's still sore after the weekend then I'll call. If it's another cyst and I need another surgery I will have a complete mental breakdown. I'm thinking that maybe the offroad triathlon in August is not a great plan but we'll see.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I went to the market to realise my soul

Saturday morning I took Team Old School to Biscuit Eaters for a quick morning practice. There was a jumpers course set up so we tried our luck with that. I ran Cody at 16" and he was flying, no signs of injury but I know better, he could still be hiding something. Lola was a bit slower, hard to say if her feet are hurting her or what. When I first unleashed her she took off to check out the perimeter of the field, no doubt looking for more bunnies to kill. It's hard to say with her whether it's avoidance behavior because she's sore or simply her prey drive getting the best of her. I let her run & sniff for a while and when I called her to me to start the course she seemed eager enough so we gave it a go. She ran past a straight line of jumps that I'd taken for granted that she'd take. I'd run way far ahead while she was in a tunnel assuming she'd take all the jumps between us but instead she ran past them all and came right to me (Cody had taken them all no problem). So I tried again working each jump with her and she got it no problem. Then I worked a short tunnel, weave, table, weave tunnel sequence, ran them over some contacts and called it a day. All perfect contacts of course, no popped weave poles, quick downs on the table, everything perfect and I started to wonder why I even bother with trials, why not stick to the practice field where everything's perfect, I don't have to take out a second mortgage for entry fees and I can go home and enjoy the rest of my day.

After practice I decided to swing by the Boulder farmer’s market to get some food for lunch. It’s been about 10 years or so since I’ve been to the farmer’s market. Last time I went it was horribly crowded, horribly expensive and there was the hippy music. Not much has changed over the past 10 years I’m afraid. I passed on the super expensive stuff-$10 blocks of cheese, $4.00 heads of lettuce, flowers that I was afraid to even ask the price. In the end I settled for the following:

Tomatoes: $3.25 ($3.00/lb), Shitake mushrooms: $5.00 (half pound bag)

Scallions: $1.25

Red & green leaf lettuce: $3.00
This was the final salad, not the nicest looking I know but it sure tasted good. I added some cashews for some protein and because cashews, yum. I sprinkled some parmesan over the big bowl of salad then grated a bit of cheese over my personal bowl because again I wanted the protein and cheese, yum.

Cinnamon Roll: $2.50, Pecan chocolate chip blondie: $2.50
These were from the Brillig Works, a small cafe with good veggie food in the campus area. It's been years since I've been there, the campus business district is a pain to park in so I was thrilled to see they had a stand at the farmer's market. Pecan chocolate chip blondies look much better on a 26 year old waistline then they do on a 43 year old one but I couldn't resist and I was going riding later and needed the energy. Or at least that was the lie that I told myself. The cinnamon roll was for Jonny (really, I didn't eat them both, honest).

And of course I couldn't forget the pups. I only bought one bone because yikes $3!!! But they'll split the offal at some point so everyone will get a treat.
Dog bone: $3.00, Bison Offal: $2.00

I'll confess I was a bit cranky by the time I got to the car after my little shopping expedition. I was getting claustrophobic with the crowds and what a nuisance having to stand in a different line for each thing. And the hippy music...if you like it well good for you but it only added to my crabbiness. I wasn't looking for an 'experience' for the day, I just wanted some good fresh food for lunch so I could be on my way on my bike. And the cost, yikes, I spent $22.50 all told and didn't have all that much to show for it. As I was driving home I was thinking it couldn't possibly be that much better than the organic stuff you get at the store. But I was wrong, oh so wrong. Everything was significantly better than the stuff in the store, I couldn't believe it. I haven't had any fresh picked veggies since last summer and I'd forgotten how good they were. I had to toss the scallions because I'd inadvertently put them in the same bag with the bloody dog bone but everything else went in the salad and in the end it cost $7.13 (subtracting the unused tomato and shrooms). I had 2 big bowls and Jonny had a bowl, I put some leftovers in an omelette this morning and there are still at least 2-3 bowls left. If only it wasn't such a hassle. Normally my Saturday mornings are so busy I don't have a chance to stop at the market. Oh well, hopefully the farm stand will open soon.

After lunch I had half a blondie (for energy for my ride remember) then hit the trails near my house on my bike. I wasn't planning a huge ride because I had plans to ride in the mountains with some friends on Sunday but it was such a gorgeous day I wanted to spend some time on the trails. The good news is I didn't notice any pain in my foot at all. The bad news is that was because of the horrible stabbing pain in my knee right from the start. I have no idea the why or wherefore of it but there was no ignoring it. I decided to try gutting it out a bit, had to work off that blondie and more importantly it was so beautiful outside. About 20 minutes into the ride I hit this hill:

and the pain turned from stabbing to blindingly stabby mcstabbing and I decided to quit being an idiot and blondie be damned I was heading back home. I would go home, put some ice on the knee and rest up with the hope that it would be o.k. for my ride the next day. Well, I did go home and hit the couch and some ice but then got bored and decided to mow the lawn, if I can't have fun may as well get some chores done. Knee was o.k. but not fabulous. More ice, some ibuprofen and I spent the rest of the night on the couch, don't want to miss Sunday's ride. If I can go into denial about Cody's possible issues I certainly have no problem going into denial about my own. No more fancy surgery for either of us, we'll spend the rest of our lives gimping together.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rest Day

It's not often that you wake up to rain in Boulder and on the rare occasion that it happens I'll usually pile on the Gore-tex and take the dogs for their morning romp anyway. I'll have the trails to myself and snicker to myself about at all the pathetic wimpy Boulderites who can't handle a widdle rain. Well this morning I was one of the pathetic, for some reason I couldn't bear the thought of smelling wet stinky dog in my office all day. Of course I could have left one dog home but man I was in a lazy mood and decided everyone was getting a rest day, including me. My foot is worse on damp rainy days, yeah, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

It's fun to have a cold rainy day every once in a while. It's a good excuse to go down to the coffee shop for a mocha and give the canine/human brain & body a rest from training. Tomorrow though it's back to business.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Can you spot the 'CU' scrawled on one of the Flatirons? Horrible isn't it.

Enchanted Mesa Trail

Cody Baloney

Pinecones are nature's tennis balls

I'm a bit behind here, it's been so nice outside I haven't had time for blogging.

These photos are from a short hike the weekend before last at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. My first real hike post foot surgery so I kept it short, about an hour, and it went fine. Dogs behaved, foot behaved, a beautiful day on the trail. I left Lola home since 3 is a bit much for me but Jonny gave her a nice long walk and I think there might have been tennis balls in the park involved so don't feel too sorry for her.

I went for an equally short bike ride (1 1/4 hours) on the Marshall Mesa trails later in the day. Had to pass some cattle that were right next to the trail, so close I could feel their hot breath on my ankle when I passed. Thankfully they were more interested in grazing than trampling me. You can laugh but there was a woman who was seriously injured/hospitalized by a cow on a popular open space trail a few years ago. She unwittingly had come between the cow and its calf which was down by a creek and the cow charged and trampled her. It's not a common thing but still I'm wary around the cows. It's often impossible to tell if you're cutting off a mom & baby, esp. if the baby is off in some tall bushes or grass and not even visible. Once I inadvertenlty caused a stampede while riding my bike and sent a small herd charging down an 'alley' of trail (fenced pasture on both sides of the trail). They had somehow gotten out of their fenced pasture and onto the trail and when I rounded a corner there they were and they went flying the other way. Unfortunately they eventually ran into a dead end. There was a gate for cyclists to get through but fencing and barbed wire on 3 side for the cows. I was afraid that if I turned around and rode back that they'd stampede me from behind so I got off the bike and tried to walk through them to the gate but they were panicked and started ramming/jumping through the barbed wire. I stood still for a while until they had all somehow busted their way through. It wasn't a pretty sight. So I always go slooow around the cattle and hope for the best.

This weekend I was back on the bike at Marshall Mesa and looped over to the new Doudy Draw trail, very pretty trail and rideable. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera but there were some beautiful views of the front range foothills & grasslands. Then Sunday Jonny took me up to the West Mag trails just outside Nederland at around 8800 ft. elevation. I didn't think there was any way I'd be on the 'real' mountain trails so soon after surgery so I was thrilled to be out there. I felt out of shape but it wasn't as bad as I was expecting and for some bizarre reason the elevation didn't bother me. Usually the first ride of the season at high elevation is a killer. I started thinking maybe there is a chance I could do the Indian Peaks off road tri in August but maybe that's a bit ambitious, esp. with all the weekends devoted to seminars and trialling this June and another weekend in July lost to a trip to Chicago. Plus the minor detail of being so hopelessly out of shape.

I've been slowly working my way back to running, following the PT's return to running plan. I started out run a minute, walk a minute for 5 reps (5 minutes total of running), 3 times a week then add a minute of running each week. I did little to no running in the weeks before the 2 agility trials so I'm only now up to 4 minutes run/1 minute walk (20 minutes total running). It all feels o.k., not great but o.k. My foot is still sore, some runs go better than others, typical rehab. crap. I've been taking 2 dogs with me so everybody's easing back into the running thing right along with me.

Cody seems to be having some issues with his front legs but I've been burying my head in the sand about it. He's 10 next month, of course he's going to have issues. The day after the Enchanted Mesa hike he was limping for a few steps right when we left the house for a walk so I marched him home and left him with a Kong. Same thing happened this past weekend and I decided it's better for him to walk and keep in shape and hopefully whatever's ailing him isn't too serious. No problems for the 3+ mile hike other than slowing down on a steep hill but still I know better that something is probably wrong. I should take him up to Loveland to the ortho. vet but at the moment I feel like if something's wrong I just don't want to know. If I notice more limping and if it's increasing I'll take him in but for now I'm going to keep and eye on it.

Over Memorial day I bought a 12' long 2x12 plank and painted/sanded it then realized how unwieldy such a long plank is. It has to live outside and hopefully it won't get too trashed. I guess I didn't need to get such a big plank but I thought it would be good to practice on different size planks and have a full size plank at home. I have a 5' plank at work that we practice on during my lunch hour and I try to fit in at least 10 reps w/ Lola & Strum before work then maybe some more after work if I'm not too tired.

I've also been working on weaves (6 poles) in the mornings with all dogs. Strum's confident weaving 6 poles with the channels shut all the way so we've moved on to working on entries. He was having a bear of a time with the regular old on side entry and kept diving in at the 2nd/3rd poles so I started out helping him by standing near the entry and guiding him in. I gradually moved away from the entry a step at a time and after a few sessions or so he finally started to get it. The DVD I've been following said to click for both the entry and exit and a big part of me rebelled against that. Makes no sense, what if he gets the entry and blows the exit? According the the DVD if that happens you don't reward. But what about that first click? In my mind you have to reward the entry but then he might start to think it's o.k. to pop the poles or that he can pop out at the first pole when he hears the click. Nonetheless I thought I'd give it a try and sure enough he started popping out when he heard the click. I think if you want to do that you have to work with only 2 or maybe 3 poles and work only on entries. I've decided on marking the entry with a verbal 'good' which is not the same as a click (doesn't always earn a reward) then click the exit.

I tried a brief experiment with using toys with Strummer and that was something of a disaster. His brain focuses on that toy and shuts off to everything else. He was leaping off the middle of the 12' plank from midway across and racing past the weaves like they didn't exist. His success rate was down at around 10-20% for the board and maybe 40-50% for the weaves though admittedly he was flying through lightning fast when he was doing them correctly. Some people say train for that speed right from the start but I can't get him to engage his brain enough to learn anything. In fact he leapt the board so many times I feared he would build muscle memory so I decided to switch back to food the following day and voila we are back at 80-90% success. For now we'll stick with food until he's solid or close to solid and then the toys can come back out. It will be a good way to proof anyway.

I'll get some video going one of these years.

Who me? Lose my mind for the tennis ball? Never.