Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fat Tire Triathlon-Lory State Park

Fat Tire Triathlon-Lory State Park-Fort Collins, Colorado
750 m/648 yard swim, 12 mile mountain bike, 4.8 mile trail run

In short, had a great race. Knee was fine and though I was slow I didn't have to walk any of the run course.

Weather was perfect for racing-high 50's and cloudy (I'm guessing. Thermometer on a bank in a town at the bottom of Lory read 59 degrees on my way home at 12:30). Weather was not great for standing around in a wetsuit for 45 minutes on the shore of a windy lake at 8 a.m. I was in the very last wave and they kicked us out of transition around 45 minutes before my wave so I couldn't stay bundled up in my toasty down vest and fleecy hat. I was so cold I was starting to shiver so I tried running back and forth along the beach but it was too rocky and I was hurting my feet. So I tried running in place and this helped a wee bit but still by the time I got in the water to warm up my left index finger was white and had lost feeling. Water almost felt warmer than the air and once I started swimming to warm up I felt better.

Even my bike looks cold.

Eltuck Bay-swim out to the last orange buoy, turn the corner, head back and you're done.

Eltuck Bay and transition area

My wave was the last and very small and spread out so I had plenty of room. I found a pair of feet to draft off of for a bit but the woman was swimming a crazy line and finally went so far off course that I had to let her go. I felt good through the whole swim and for once the turn-around came much sooner than I thought it would. I turned tightly around the buoy while a woman on my outside swam wide and I couldn't believe how much space I gained on her with that one turn. Up until today I never thought it made all that much difference. Swim was over before I knew it with no drowning or panicking. 13:45 for 648 yards/750 meters (advertised distance, race morning they claimed 1/2 mile or 880 yards but I seriously doubt it was that far based on my time).

T1 (1st transition) was 3:52 and this included an uphill run of maybe 75-100 yards from the lake to the transition area. I took my wetsuit off while still in the water and it took 48 seconds which was disappointing since it had taken me 37 secs at masters the other morning. The timing chip that I had to wear on my ankle was so huge-are they timing my splits or putting me under house arrest? I wanted to take the suit off while it was wet in the water since I thought it would be easier to get over the chip. I always have such a problem getting my wetsuit off as it is once I'm out of the water even with copious amounts of body glide. The run plus wetsuit removal took 2:11, the time in actual transition was 1:41.

The bike course was 2 loops and for the first loop there were plenty of people to chase and I found myself pushing myself to try to keep up with and pass people. By the second loop the course had thinned and I had a scant few people to pace off of. I found myself losing focus and slowing down for the last 1/4 or so of the final lap as I'd lost sight of anybody in front of or behind me. I passed a few very slow people at the end but coming up on someone significantly slower than you and having someone going close to your pace just up ahead of you to chase are not the same.

The course was nice smooth single track with lots of twists and turns and switchbacks. A little bit of climbing but nothing too crazy. Lots of little ups and downs. Beautiful scenery and a lot of fun. I love off-road tri's. Passing is a bit of a nuisance on the single track but except for a very few instances people were polite and it was no problem.

I didn't see anybody crash or fall in front of me, something that usually happens a few times in front of me at an off-road tri but I did see a guy sit down on the side of the trail with his bike. Some people ahead of me passed him so I assumed he was o.k. but asked him anyway just to be sure. He replied, 'Uh, sort of. Yeah, I'm o.k.' and smiled and waved me on. I didn't see any blood or obvious sign of impending heart attack but I felt a bit bad leaving him there. I could easily have summoned help for him if he needed it, he was right near a place where the trail crossed a road.

By the end of the first bike loop I was ready for the race to be over. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of another loop and then a 4.8 mile trail run. I realized I wasn't even near 1/2 way done. Had one of those 'why did I sign up for this, now?' moments then started the second lap and had a great ride. By the end of the second lap I was dreaming of my nice warm jacket in transition as it was misty and a few little rain droplets and I was getting cold. Then I forgot to put it on in transition. Turned out the rain never amounted to anything and I didn't need it but still, doh.

Lots of people jealous of my handlebar streamers. Except for maybe the guys I passed. Bad enough to be passed by a gimpy old lady with jiggly thighs who started maybe 18 minutes after you; the streamers are just a final indignity.

Bike time was 1 hour, 22 minutes for 12 miles (advertised, my bike computer was on the fritz as per usual during a race so I couldn't measure it for myself).

T2 Time was 1:12. Stupid socks cost me a sub 1:00 but for such a long run I thought it was worth the extra seconds and it was.

This was the big unknown. Would I have to walk? Would my knee hold up? Haven't run more than 3 miles since foot surgery a year ago last February and now I have to run 4.8 miles on a singletrack trail up a mountain? After all that swimming and biking? I've not been timing my training runs so I have no idea what pace I'm currently running at. Doesn't matter anyway because the trail is so steep for so long that normal pace doesn't apply.

The start of the run goes right past the finish area, you can hear all the cheering as people come in. It makes me want to cry. 4.8 miles. It seems an impossibility.

The first 2 1/2 miles or so are up a steep trail. You switchback your way up the mountain and just when you think you've reached the top you turn a corner and see not only more hill but the other racers way up high above you and you realize you are nowhere near the top and you want to cry all over again. This happens at least a half dozen times. But it's a beautiful trail, gorgeous views from up high of Lory State park and the red cliffs surrounding Eltuck Bay. Last gasps of colorful wildflowers lining both sides of the trail. I'm not moving quickly but my knee is good and I'm able to run the whole uphill. There's a guy in a white shirt who I passed on the bike then who repassed me on the start of the run and who's walking now so I try to catch up. Eventually I pass him then set my sights on a guy in black who's walking. He's way up ahead of me though and he pulls me up to almost the very top before I manage to pass him. I figure he'll go sailing by me on the downhill because here is where I need to be super careful of my knee. But as it happens when we hit the steepy downhill bits I go sailing down myself and put some distance between us. With each switchback I'm further ahead. I'm taking teensy steps and controlling them with my quads so I don't pound my knees and somehow this propels me down the hill faster than I thought it would. No time to enjoy the views now or I risk plunging ass over tea kettle down the mountain.

Soon the road at the bottom seems to be within reach and I can start to hear the cheering from the finish line. I hit the 4 mile mark and I'm surprised to find some strength still left in my legs. I go a few more minutes then pick up the pace a bit more because I so want to be done than to try to improve my time. I pass one more person but then there's no one in sight for the last 1/2 mile or so and no one anywhere near coming up behind me. Still I try to finish as strong as I can and when I hit the finish area I pick up the pace a bit more. I don't feel like pushing my knee to a sprint and there's no one to race to the finish anyway.

As I cross the finish line I hear them announcing the age group winners at the awards ceremony. How depressing is that? I've barely caught my breath and they announce the winner for my age group. But it's weird, they only announce first place and for the other age groups they give out awards to third. I get some food and cool down some more. I see someone I know who was in the relay and chat with her while she waits for her awards to be announced. Her team wins of course. She's a former Xterra pro triathlete, ranked 4th in the country at one point, and the swimmer on the team is some phenom of a 14 year old boy. Did a relay at another tri and got beat by just a couple of pro's.

I'm getting chills sitting around so I check the posted results before I head back to transition to pick up my bike but my name's not there. It's cold so I don't want to spend too much time getting to the bottom of it but I take a quick look around to see if I can see someone official looking. Next thing I know they're announcing that they have some more age group winners and I'm shocked to hear them reading my name off for 2nd place! They read off a 3rd place name too so no there were not just the 2 of us. When I get home and see the final results it turns out there was 1 more. I don't care all that much but the award seems a little more special if I don't get it for merely showing up. The first place woman was 2nd woman overall and came in 45 minutes ahead of me. Third place came in 7 1/2 minutes later and 4th came in 15 1/2 minutes later.

Swim: 13.45 mins./secs
T1: 3.52
Bike: 1:22 hours/mins. (9.0 mph)
T2: 1.23
Run: 1:04 hours/mins. (13.19 mins/mile)
Overall: 2:44 hours/mins.

Run Splits:
mile 1: 14.23
mile 2: 15.29
mile 3: 12.50
mile 4: 10.29
"mile" 5: 10:32
Gives you an idea of the impact of the steepness of the hill. Course changed from uphill to downhill about midway through mile 3.

2/4 age group
33/53 women
155/184 overall

For the individual events my swim place was highest, next was the bike, run was third. No surprises there.

View of Lory State Park

Pretty glassware award for the gimp.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ready or not

Tomorrow is race day. Thought maybe I should put down some goals.

1. No drowning.

2. No falling off mountain bike.

3. No tripping during the trail run.

4. Maybe, hopefully not finishing DFL

Swim is 750 m (686 yards), bike is 12 miles (11 on singletrack, 1 on dirt road), run is 4.8 miles on trails. Swim should be no problemo to easily finish but my time won't be great. Went to too many open water Reservoir masters swims instead of interval/pool workouts and I'm sure I've lost some swim fitness. Bike should be o.k., too. I've done a reasonable amount of riding this summer on harder trails than the one the race is on. I've got some new hunky tires on my bike that are ridiculous overkill for the trail I'm riding tomorrow (people were asking the race director is they could use Cross bikes which are beefed up road bikes) but I'm too lazy to change them. I'll probably have a weirdo panic attack at 10:00 tonight and decide I need to change them back to my skinnier more nimble ones but oh well. Run is 4.8 miles and will be the toughest part and biggest unknown. For some reason I thought the run was 4.2 miles when I signed up but only recently found out I was mistaken. Farthest I've been running is just under 3 miles. I'm up to a run/walk pattern of 8/1 which is near enough running straight through but the distance will be a big step up. I'm sure I'll be fine but how my knee will hold up is something of an unknown. Didn't feel like I could have pushed the getting back to running program much more than I did though and hopefully the steep hiking will have helped. I was up to 6 miles or so of steep hiking so I know I can cover the distance and I'll slow to a walk if the knee acts up.

I didn't do any brick workouts (bike then run right afterwards) which is a big mistake. This was mostly due to logistics as most bike rides were done in the mountains with other people who don't run so once the ride was over we drove straight home. Again, I'm sure I'll be fine but the first mile or so after T2 won't be pretty.

Racing is a rare treat for me and this is my first race in 2 years so I'm excited for it. The course is beautiful, the weather should cooperate and though I wish I was in better shape I think I did the best with my training that I could have given the constraint of my knee and I know I'm prepared enough to finish. Hopefully my knee will be in as good a mood as I am when I wake up tomorrow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

USDAA Laramie 2009

I know, Thursday already and I'm only now getting to a trial report. The lice panic threw me for a loop and last night I spent most of the night doing more laundry and vacuuming the spongy guts of the dog beds and crate pads. It's a bit overboard I know but it makes me feel better and I can't believe the amount of dirt and dog hair that's come up in my dryer's lint filter. I was probably better off before when I was living in denial of all the dirt and dog hair in everything. It's a good thing I'm working and busy all the time and have no time to dwell on it or I'd probably go mad.

The Laramie USDAA trial is one of my favorites. It's indoors so heat is not an issue and one ring so you can relax and watch other people's runs and not have to work every class and run between rings tearing your hair out over the conflicts. I like driving through WY, so pretty and wild and wide open. It's a 2 hour drive but it feels like a different world.

Lola had some nice runs and even picked up an elusive Gamblers Q. Her last one was a million years ago and she needs 3 more for her Perf. ADCH. At this rate she'll finish them off at age 37. I also ran her in Snooker, Jumpers and Standard, all of them really nice runs but for one little thing or another. I was particularly sad about missing that Standard run, she was going so nicely through all the tricky bits, got her table, weaves, contacts and simply ran past the teeter for a refusal. She was on a nice line to it too, I took my eye off her because I thought it was so obvious. I'll bet she was the only Masters dog to make that mistake, my creative little girl. But otherwise such a nice, fun run.

Strummer had mostly nice runs with one train wreck thrown in to keep me humble. I had a lot of total strangers, really good handlers, come up and introduce themselves and tell me what a nice dog Strum is. It was both nice and a little strange. One guy said he remembered on of Strum's runs from last February! I think it's because of the one ring trial, more people are able to watch and have time for socializing or something. It's always nice to meet new people though and of course it's nice when people tell you what a great dog you have.

Thanks to Julie we have super fancypants HD video of Strummer's crazy antics. She's got Strummer's twin brother. He's the nice one while Strummer of course is the one with the devil horns.

Strum had a pretty Speed Jumping run except for the weaves. This was puzzling to me since he's been doing good with the weaves in the trials. Weird. He couldn't do them in Standard either. Wonderful running A-frame though and I pulled off a front cross, yeah baby. He was 100% for 4 A-frames this trial.
(Click on link to view)

Had a little bobble at the start of his Jumpers run then got momentarily lost after a front cross but pulled it together for his first USDAA Q and 1st place.


Standard was the train wreck. After his Jumpers run a really good handler I know who knows a lot about jumping was telling me what a nice Jumper Strummer is, how he's jumping off his rear and judging take-offs nicely and he's 'scopey' (I had to look that one up) and probably a bunch of other things I can't remember right now. She and all these really good, top handlers were watching him and discussing him in the stands. Which isn't too intimidating. Then he proceeded to crash through the second jump of his Standard run like it wasn't even there. Poor guy, it looks worse on video than I realized. If I'd seen how bad it was I would have stopped his run right then and there. I'm not even sure what happened, it looks as if he didn't see it until the last second. I was frustrated with my handling as well but on the plus side I noticed my arm flying up about halfway through and stopped myself from doing it the rest of the run. It was the only time all weekend where it felt like he was running wild out of control so I suppose that's something. It was the last class of the second day and I think he was starting to get a little fried. A fly was winding him up right before he went in the ring and that didn't help matters.


No video for Gamblers but he had a beautiful run. The judge gave him credit for his dogwalk but he failed my criteria. Then we had to stop and re-run about 1/3 of the way through due to a timer malfunction and on the re-run he totally blew the contact. That was the only bad part though, got both his A-frames and handled nicely. Didn't get the gamble but was so fast and amassed so many points that he had more points in his opening than the first place dog had with its Gamble points. Silly crazy boy.

He was bad in his crate at the start of the trial, barking his fool head off despite being covered and as far away from the ring as possible. Unfortunately the noise of the other dogs running sets him off as well as the visual. I couldn't put him in the car Friday night because it was too hot but he spent Saturday morning in the car. I worked with him a little when I had to bring him back in and by the later classes he was finally quiet.

We slept in the car on Friday night in an effort to save money and it was so much nicer than a hotel room. I have a nice comfy air mattress so my back was fine. I didn't miss having a shower since I'd driven up on Friday afternoon and only had 3 runs. It was so much quieter than a hotel and it was nice waking up and being right at the trial site. The dogs alarm barked a few times during the night and at one point I looked out and saw what was probably a coyote but otherwise they were good and I don't mind them barking to scare the wildlife away. Strummer couldn't relax sleeping with me & Lola so I put a crate pad on one of the front seats and Mr. Fidgetpants finally settled in for the night. I had way too many blankets and layers on and had to shed some before the night was done so cold was not a problem. Overall much better than the expensive scary hotels in Laramie. I'm just glad I didn't know about the lice at the time or the night would have gone a whole different way.

I didn't enter for Sunday and drove back Saturday night because I wanted to relax and get one more bike ride in before my race next weekend. Just as well because Lola was limping on Sunday. Not a big limp but still. It's probably her bicep tendonitis flaring up as it sometimes does or maybe the arthritis in her feet flaring up or both. Of course it was the day after closing for a DOCNA trial she's entered in over Labor Day. When this stuff flares up I typically give her 2 days of Rymadil and 4 days of rest then gradually ease her back up to activity with leash walks. She might be fine for the trial, we'll see how she handles the return to activity. She's not handling her rest period well but tomorrow she can finally walk for a bit. Poor girl, sucks getting old, I know all about it. My knee was acting up Friday night and was sore on Saturday for the first time in weeks then was fine again on Sunday. We gimp along as best we can when we get old, I guess it's all we can do.

Do I even want to know what this is for?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Operation Itchy & Scratchy

Lice people, I have LICE in my house!!! Or at least that's what the vet thinks is the source of everybody's incessant scratching. I didn't even know dogs could get lice. He couldn't see them for sure but when I described the symptoms and timetable of events that was his best guess. He tells me this would be a best case scenario of all the possible itch causing, blood sucking parasites. This is of little consolation to me. There's something about parasites that's particularly upsetting and loathsome. Lazy little bastards getting fat off the labors of others and contributing nothing in return. Maybe this is why I have such contempt for all the trustfunders around here.

Anyway, the vet sends me home with some flea & tick shampoo and tells me to bathe the dogs and clean all the dog bedding, etc. You think??!! If it wasn't for my fear of pesticides I'd bug bomb the whole house. And the yard. And the neighbor's yard. But the vet says lice are the easiest to kill of all the bugaboos so no need to nuke the place with chemicals. But my skin is crawling at the thought of lice. In my house. I have to treat this like a military operation in order to be sure I get rid of all the bugs-set up a Clean Zone so the bathed dogs don't get reinfected by the bugsy dogs or don't get into infected bedding or carpet but I need to keep a Bugsy Zone so the unbathed dogs have a place to hang out. Jonny is out with Strummer which only complicates matters because they could come home at any moment and contaminate my Clean Zone. And every last one of my dogs hates baths. All of this with a late start on a work night.

Of course Jonny gets home with Strummer while I'm bathing Cody so I can't explain it all nicely, I have to yell at him to keep Strummer out of my Clean Zone and I don't have time to explain it all just pretty please could you get going on the vacuuming and maybe clean out Strummer's crate and throw some more dogs beds into the washer and get the bugsy comforter off the bed and out of my Clean Zone pleeeze??!! My dogs have a lot of beds and crate pads, I had no idea how many until it came down to washing them all. Spoiled little monsters. 'It's lucky they're cute', that's what the receptionist at the vet tells me when I tell her the diagnosis of lice.

Poor Jonny, I don't think he's all that bothered by the lice but he's not thrilled with me barking orders at him. At one point I'm up to my elbows in Strummer and water and toxic chemical shampoo and trying to keep him from shaking and getting pesticide in my eye or jumping out of the tub and Jonny's asking me what to use to clean out the crate and I have to yell to figure it out yourself I can't take my brain off of the Strummer situation for even a split second or we will have chaos or worse.

I finish with dog baths at around 8 pm and cleaning at around 9. It's one way to get me to clean the house and bathe the dogs I suppose. I get to repeat the whole process in a week when I give them another flea bath and hopefully that will be the end of our little friends.

Monday, August 24, 2009

USDAA Trial Stats/Jump Heights

Some interesting numbers from this past weekend's USDAA trial in Laramie, WY:

Grand Prix (Championship)

Class Height/# of dogs
26"/2 dogs
22"/43 dogs
16"/5 dogs
12" 1 dog

22" class was 84% of the total entry.

32 of the 43 dogs in the 22" class were Border Collies. That's a whopping 74%.

Master Jumpers was similar with 46 dogs in the 22" class of 55 total dogs (84% of total entries) and 33 BC's in the 22" class (72%).

Master Standard had 81% of the total entry in the 22" class and 72% of those were BC's.

This is typical of the trials around here. There are usually 2-3 dogs in 26", 2-3 dogs in 12", 4-6 dogs in 16" and the rest in the 22" class.

Maybe I'm grumpy because despite having 3 measurements under 21" by regular judges the CMJ measured Strummer at 21 1/4" this weekend, nudging him into the 26" class. My only recourse is to get 2 more CMJ's to measure him under. Problem is we don't have any CMJ's scheduled at local trials for the rest of the year, not even at Regionals. Will the January trial have one? How about April? Will I be having him measured on into next summer or fall? I could drive 8 hours to Nebraska in October for a CMJ. Yeah, suuuuure I could.

Life sucks for the 21" cusp dog because as a vet you still have to jump over your shoulder height. I can put Strum in 22" Performance for life but then there is no vet class for him. I can jump him at 26", at the trial there were people who saw him jumping who said he's a nice jumper and he'd be fine at 26". My feeling is that just because he can jump 26" doesn't mean he should. I find the idea of a 21" dog jumping 5" over their shoulder height to be ridiculous. And so do most other people around here with big dogs which is why the 26" class typically has 2-3 entries.

There's a lot I like about USDAA but I don't like that they don't put the dogs first. Or the competitors. The judge this weekend was grumping about the fuss over 24" weave poles. 'The dogs go faster through those poles so you will just bring on their injuries more quickly', was his reasoning. Huh? Wuh? It made no sense at all and when several people pointed out that it was the angle of bending that was causing the stress on the dog's joints/neck/back/etc. the judge responded that the difference in the angle of bending was so slight that you could barely see it. Uh, yeah, maybe he has not seen the zillions of videos floating around the internets. And he's an orthopedic vet maybe? Then he started grumping about other organizations caving in to pressures from their customers. Because who cares what those pesky customers want, especially the ones who fret so needlessly about the welfare of their dogs? It's about Competition and Tradition, people! Not the dogs or the customers.

I think this particular pesky customer sees a lot more DOCNA in her future.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Moose and Squirrel

I'll get to the agility trial results soon enough-there was brilliance and running amok (Strummer) and a Master Gamblers Q (huzzah!) and some nice runs with one little miss each (Lola). Bad news is that today Lola is limping (sigh).

Anyway, on today's mountain bike ride on the West Magnolia trails we had a huge bull moose charge full speed ahead across the trail in front of us maybe 20-30 yards away. Jonny was a bit panicked but I thought it was cool until I saw the dog chasing him. It was funny because at the start of the ride some idiot let their dog run right in front of Jonny's wheel then he apologized then 10 seconds later let the dog run in front of my wheel causing me to hit the brakes and nearly running me off the trail and he apologized again leading me to think that maybe his mommy didn't do such a great job of teaching him what 'sorry' means. It made me think it wouldn't be the end of my world if they banned dogs off those trails or at least put in a leash law. I know, I'm such a crank. But if I had been a few seconds further down the trail and gotten mowed down by Bullwinkle being unnecessarily stampeded by some idiot's dog, well, maybe you can see my point. Very few people, including myself, can muster the mental energy to keep the rubber side down on the trails and police their dogs which is why Strummer stays home on biking day. Because I don't want to see how Strummy v Bullwinkle turns out. I know, accidents happen, they are dogs not machines and I've certainly had my share of dog misbehavior but 90% of what I see on those trails is negligence, not good owners with trained dogs having a bad moment.

Jonny was worried we'd cross paths with the moose again which I thought was unlikely but what do I know about stampeding moose? A little later in the ride I came up a hill and found Jonny half panicked, half laughing. He'd heard some noise and assumed it was the moose, screeched to a halt and realized it was just Rocky the Squirrel looking for his buddy.

Apropos to nothing I also saw a vulture today and only 2-3 blocks from my house. He was sitting in a tree eyeing up a big piece of vacant land next to the city owned Open Space which is the start of the Rocky Mountains. The land has been sitting vacant for at least a year now though it had been slated for a housing development. I think maybe there's some financial problem with the land owner/developer and the vulture is a realtor in disguise, waiting for the right moment to swoop down and snatch up the prize.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Big Four Five

I turn 45 today. A new age group for races is one way to look at it. I celebrated early on Saturday by leaving my EZ Up and 2 bags full of expensive crap at the trial site (I didn't enter for Sunday). I remembered them at 10:30 p.m. At least I remembered them, I suppose in a few more birthdays I won't remember them at all until I go to use them and wonder where they are.

Had a nice 53 minute drive each way to Denver and back on Sunday morning which meant there was no way I was going to drive up to Ft. Collins another 1 1/4 hours in the opposite direction for the pre-ride of the bike course that the race director for my triathlon was having. Oh well. It's a huge advantage to pre-ride the course but it's not like I'm in the money for any hardware this time around so instead Jonny took me on a nice ride on a very similar type trail just 15-20 minutes drive away.

Can't wait to see what I will forget in Laramie this weekend. As long as it's not the dogs we should be o.k.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Trial Photos

Here are some nice photos of Strummer from the DOCNA trial. I sent the link to Jonny and he replied, 'Looks like someone had fun.' And I replied that I was sure it wasn't me. It's just my luck there were a couple of photos of the start of that ill fated Jumpers run taken right at jump #3 where my brain decided to have a panic attack at the crazy wild horse thundering towards me off the start line. As it happens I can't blame the crazy rabid squirrels in Strummer's brain, I was so confusing and so late in my cue. This means what now? Brain sez 'front cross', body projects 'huh, what?' So do you think I was late or what? The next jump was the one behind me. Ugh, poor poor dog.

Maybe if I watch this guy's videos over and over enough times some of his crazy mad handling skilz will imprint themselves in my subconscious brain. He's young too, maybe 18? It's an outrage to be that good at such an age. He judged one of our USDAA trials last year and I swear I heard someone say he was in high school. But he was an excellent judge and even offered to help us at the score table when we were understaffed and falling behind. How many judges ever offer to do that? Plus it looks like he's using the handling system I'm trying to learn so maybe if I watch enough I'll pick something up.

In the meantime I'm off to the practice field to abuse poor Lola with some distance work and maybe some more crappy handling if she's lucky.

Extreme Agility DOCNA Style

I'm staring down a line of 2 jumps at Strummer sitting there ever so peacefully on the start line. A nice sunny day in the beautiful grassy park playing with my best little buddy, what could be better? I release him off and he explodes off the start line, a roaring freight train heading straight for me. 'Holeee Sheeet' is the first thought my brain has. The second is 'uh, guess I better move. And quick if I'm going to pull off that front cross.' I'm not entirely sure what happens after that. Oh, I have it all planned out, a front cross here, some deceleration there, a lateral send and another front cross, crazy mad acceleration (ie, run like hell) down the straight line of 4 jumps to the finish line and no crazy arms waving up in the air like I'm having a seizure. What happens is a blur of black and white fur flying around the entire course in full extension. On paper it doesn't look so bad-only 5 faults for a dropped bar and well under time despite running probably twice the yardage of the actual course, but I'm sure it was not a pretty picture to watch. Was I really that late with my cues or did Strum's brain leave the building at the end of a long day? Maybe a bit of both. Or likely a lot of the former with a little bit of the latter. No video of that fiasco. I wish I had some so I could see what happened but I'm also sorta glad I don't. Denial is a powerful thing.

I should have left after Gamblers first thing in the morning. Beautiful run, hit all his contacts including a flip away off the dogwalk into a tunnel and ditto for the A-frame (twice!). Almost got the gamble but for the last jump but an otherwise beautiful, fast, focused run. Yes, we are a team.

Not so fast. We then have 2 standard runs, the first of which is mayhem on wheels and the second of which is not too bad except for the small problems of the missed dogwalk AND A-frame and my crapporific handling. Overall he was 3/5 for his dogwalk, 4/5 for his A-frame and one of the those A-frame hits was very close. To be fair there was thunder and lightning going on for those Standard runs, esp. the one where he missed the contacts. In retrospect I'm amazed he ran at all. The lightning was visible but the thunder was in the distance but still, I'm guessing maybe he was a bit more wound up than usual. Or maybe that's a convenient excuse. More denial anyone? And yes I know it's very dangerous to be out in the lightning. It was a small front blowing through, one of those freaky things where the sky is blue, sun is shining and there is a small, isolated storm in the distance. It's a fact of life here in Colorado. I got caught on the edge of a sudden freak thunderstorm last night about a mile from my house. I don't intentionally mess around with lightning but sometimes it happens without warning.

Strummer's Standard Runs

Watching that video I realize that what I thought I was doing is not at all what I actually did in many places. I should have put in a front cross after the teeter in that first run instead of attempting that rear cross 2 jumps later. And what was with the late shoulder pull in the second run? I don't do that any more, that was supposed to be another move entirely. Sigh, poor Strum.

[On an unrelated note I finally figured out how to upload video so that it looks a lot nicer. Unfortunately I have to use YouTube which limits my music choices and the settings were so high it took for freaking ever but the end result looks a lot nicer than what I was getting before.]

Next up is the North American Challenge (NAC) which is similar to USDAA's Grand Prix. In order to qualify for DOCNA Championships you need only one run of the NAC with 12 or fewer faults. It's pretty easy to qualify for DOCNA Champs. but only if your dog's head is full of brains and not crazy rabid flying squirrels. It also helps if the dog's handler is calm and focused and giving timely cues and not flying about in a panic while waving arms in the air in seizure mode. Given that the NAC is a longer, more challenging course than Starters Standard and given how those 2 Standard runs turned out I'm not entertaining delusions of qualifying. But as it turns out the sky is clear of storms, Strum's brain is clear of squirrels and I somehow manage to keep it together for 20 obstacles and two, count 'em TWO, dogwalks with only a wrap jump between. Strum missed the first dogwalk but hit the second one which was another 180 turn away to a tunnel. He also skipped some poles in the weaves and I had to restart him. Twice. Otherwise though it was a fantastic run and a Q with only the 5 faults for the dogwalk, 5.30 yps even with the lost time to the weave restarts. This was the fastest time of all levels/heights and there were a few other fast dogs there. I'm not trying to be braggy here, I'm just saying I've got my hands full. But yay for that run, we are a team again. We even have people tell us what a nice run and what a nice job Strum is doing. Good thing they were probably gone for that Jumpers run and obviously didn't see the Standard runs.

So overall it was a day of extremes. I'm guessing it's going to be like that for us as I get used to handling such a fast dog and he gets used to handling the pressures and distractions of the competition ring. I was frustrated with myself since I felt I wasn't handling as well as I could yet I was trying to be focused and not fall into my bad habits. Did you see those flailing arms in the video? What is my problem? How many times does Joy have to point it out to me? I was hoping to focus on that one little thing for this trial yet somehow I can't help myself. Though I suppose I was otherwise distracted with trying to keep up with Mr. Pants On Fire.

We went out to the practice field this morning and I felt much better about things. Dogwalks were nearly perfect, 1 close miss out of 10-12 reps or so and I'm coming along with fading the gizmo. He wasn't even stopping at it by the last rep or two. Weaves were great too, no popping out. I think he was so overexcited at the trial that he hit the poles with too much speed and couldn't hold his rhythm by the middle of the set.

Our next trial is USDAA this weekend in Laramie, WY. Strum gets his CMJ measurement and hopefully it'll be his last. He has 3 measurements just under 21" so I'm hoping upon hope that the CMJ will also measure him under 21" so he can run in Championship. I think if he doesn't I can try for more CMJ's, not sure how that works and I'm not worrying about it unless it comes to it. I entered him in Performance for this trial though just in case since I don't want him jumping 26". If he ends up ultimately measuring into the 26" class I'm not sure how much USDAA I'll do with him since that means he'll have to be in Performance which also means when he's old there's no vet class for him which is the problem I have with my current dogs. Not sure I want to go through all that again.

I love this trial, it's one of my favorites and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully the crazy rabid squirrels will stay away from Strummer's brain and I can keep my arms out of the sky and maybe not be so late with my cues.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pimp My Ride

I am so ready for my race in 2 weeks.

I hope USAT doesn't have a rule against streamers. I tried to check but couldn't find anything except for photos from a kid's USAT tri where apparently they were no problem. At least they will know for sure that I have my handlebars plugged.

In other news Strummer had some moments of absolute brilliance and some complete and utter train wrecks this weekend at his DOCNA trial. I'll write about it later and I have some video, unfortunately only of the train wrecks and none of the good stuff but oh well. He did qualify for DOCNA Championships next year which was shocking and a pleasant surprise. He was a full 11 seconds faster than the next fastest dog but had 5 faults (yes, the dogwalk). It's still a Q though as far as qualifying for Champs. I'd like to try to go but it will depend on where they are and finances and such but October 2010 is a long way off so we'll see.

Does this look like the face of a Champion?

You can never have too many pictures of Lola.

Cody Baloney at your service.

More later if/when I have time.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fun with anagrams

Finally something useful on Facebook. A friend posted a link to an anagram sorter thingy that will take your name and shuffle it into something else. I plugged in Strummer's fancy name, ie 'Guaranteed Personality Strummer' and it came out 'RAPTUROUSLY MASTERMIND TEENAGER' which could not be more perfect. My name came out even more perfect-'THREATEN CHEERFULLY'. Yeah, I know, like I've got time for this crap. Enjoy your weekend.

Bike, Hike, Repeat

My 2 days off were wonderful but exhausting, the sort of thing you need a vacation to recover from. As a result I'm tired and playing catch-up and don't have time to deal with the photos and oh crap I have an agility trial tomorrow and when was the last time Strummer had any practice? If you have to ask and can't remember it's probably not a good sign. If things get much worse I'll need a hazmat suit to clean my house. But summer is so fleeting, especially up high in the mountains so for now the dust bunnies breed like rabbits and we don't let anyone in the house.

I don't have time for a full Week in Training post but in brief Saturday was 2 1/2 hours/13 miles or so biking at West Mag (schoolbus trail, phew an awful lot of steep climbing), Sunday was 2 hours/5 miles hiking on the Sourdough Trail just up from Boulder, Monday was 2 1/2 hours/20 miles biking in Winter Park/Fraser (1 3/4 hours drive) and Tuesday was a 3 1/2 hour hike almost to Isabelle Glacier in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Strummer came along on that one and it gets steep and rocky and he finally looked maybe a little sort of kind of tired. Yeah, in my dreams, crazy boy had a full recovery on the 45 minute drive home. Me, not so much. I feel like my fitness is improving but that I'm still way out of shape. I've been doing a good job with the training but it takes time especially when dealing with injuries. Race is in 2 weeks, agility trials this weekend and next, busy busy.

I'll leave you with this great story from One Bark at a Time. Wish I could write like that (sigh). It's maybe not for everybody but I loved it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cody Baloney Goes For a Hike

Cody turned 11 last month and to celebrate we did...nothing. I know, I'm bad but c'mon, I have time for dog birthday parties? If so please tell me when? But I felt like he's been getting the shaft lately so I decided to pick a hike that I thought he could manage and enjoy. Strum got to come along as well but Miss Lola, she's a bad influence and tends to lose her head in the woods so in the name of Jonny's sanity we left her home. I felt bad about it and she was not happy either and when we came home she immediately went into a pout outside and refused to come in. My special little drama queen.

Mt. Audubon overlooking Beaver Reservoir.

There was much joyful running and carrying on.

Looking good for 11 if you ask me.

Classic Cody Baloney pose.

Trail shenanigans in the woods.

Trail shenanigans in the meadows.

The King of Shenanigans himself.

Classic stick catching pose.

We hiked for around 2 hours/5 miles at around 9000' and saw a couple with a nice dog, another couple sans dog and a mountain biker and that was it. There were steepy rocky bits and nice smooth dirt, flat bits and lots of uppy/downy. Not a lot of scenic vistas but the forest was beautiful as were the meadows which are still full of wildflowers and the quiet, peaceful trail was a treat. There was a little nip in the air though and the flowers were starting to dwindle. I'm taking Monday and Tuesday off of work this week in part because I've had only 1 vacation day this year and I need some time off and also because I want to enjoy what little is left of summer in the high country.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Silence of the pigs, Elvis, tractor parades and, uh, yeah I think there was some agility in there somewhere

Can you say distractions?

It was an interesting day of agility, that's for sure. We were sandwiched between the carnival and the 4-H building which of course had its doors wide open because OMG people the smell. I had to go in there to use the bathrooms which unfortunately were next to the pigs and I'm telling you my eyes were starting to water and the next day I still can't get that smell out of my brain. And these pigs were all freshly scrubbed and laying in pens with nice fresh shavings and all gussied up for the show ring. I cannot begin to imagine what it must smell like on the little local farm let alone those big industrial hog farms. Seriously, it was something special. And the screaming... Maybe you've heard a chorus of 100 pigs all squealing/screaming at the same time but that was a new one on me. It was like when a group of dogs start howling in unison but a hundred million times louder and higher pitched. Somehow my dogs didn't seem the least bit bothered even though we were crated maybe 50 yards away. There was also Elvis music and other country favorites coming from the 4-H building because no pig contest would be complete without. BTW, Elvis plus dog agility, it doesn't get much cooler than that.

I had to go in the arena to see the pigs being judged. Don't worry, I cut through the area where the sheep were being penned to avoid the pig smell. The pig contest consisted of a bunch of teenagers whacking their pigs on the sides with sticks to make them trot around the ring. I couldn't figure out what they were being judged on-maybe whoever has the least amount of poop smeared across their butts wins? It certainly wasn't personality because the feistiest pig that had Strummer ears and Strummer attitude got ushered out of the ring right away. I finally worked up the nerve to ask one of the judges. There were lots of judges and this one didn't seem too busy. It turns out pig shows are kind of like dog conformation shows. The judge watches them trot around and decides which one will be the tastiest based on how they move and their structure. Or maybe the judge made that up to mess with me, who knows. But the main judge gave a little speech about why that pig when he made his decision and it seemed to back up what the other judge told me. You see, agility trials are educational.

The big rule to remember about agility trials at the County Fair is that you should carry your camera with you at all times because you never know when the tractor parade may go by.

There were some cool tractors there.

I was developing a case of tractor envy even though I'm not sure what you do with a tractor. Jonny's always talking about moving out of Boulder to some land out east so we could have donkeys and so far I've been firmly against this plan but maybe I'd reconsider if I could have a tractor. And maybe some horses.

Another thing to remember when you go to the County Fair is that you should wear your awesome pink pirate skull socks that your equally awesome husband got for you.

And make sure you let everyone know where they are in case there was any doubt.

How did the agility go you ask what with the 'Ring of Fire' roller coaster and the people screaming on the 'Ring of Fire' roller coaster right next to the start line for the baby dog classes? So loud that you can't even hear the 'Go' announcement on the speaker?

Are we barfing yet?

As it turns out this was a great set-up for Strummer because he wasn't too bothered with the coaster and the screaming and it was so loud that he couldn't hear the dog in the ring. Crazy freak dog, he was much calmer than normal. Can we please have big noisy roller coasters at all our agility trials? Sure my ears were ringing well into the night but calm dog at the start line, so worth it.

He ran in the only 3 classes offered-Gamblers, Standard and Jumpers-as did Lola and he didn't pick up any Q's but he was running nicely and most of our problems were run-bys/handling issues and baby dog stuff. He had great weaves, hit all 3 A-frames, great teeters, no knocked bars that I can remember (though I could be wrong about that), missed his dogwalk contact and had some trouble on straight runs of jumps. Don't know why but that seems to be such a hard skill for him. We've practiced it but not recently and he's so freakin' fast on a straight line of jumps mid-course or in a gamble that it's hard for me to keep up to handle him. He had an off course in Jumpers due to this and despite taking an extra tunnel and me settling him to continue on he still did 15 obtacles in 14.xx seconds. Whee, that was fun!

Lola was more distracted by the ample amount of poop in the arena dirt than the roaring coasters and screaming pigs. She started out with a nice strong run in Gamblers. Didn't get the gamble of course, the easiest gamble you could possibly imagine-out to a jump from a tunnel, teeter, jump, jump all in a straight line-easy peasy, but her opening was wonderful. She started getting a little flaky in Standard probably due to the heat but she laid down on the table despite the blaring sun (woo hoo for that!) and had an o.k. run with a missed A-frame contact and run-by/refusal. By the afternoon Jumpers class she'd had enough. It didn't help that I got lost by the 7th jump, the kind of lost where you're standing there like an idiot going, 'I'm lost, I'm lost'. As I stood there pondering the sea of jumps I lost her to the poop. I got her going again for a wee bit but it was hot and she'd had enough so I decided screw the course and ran her out of the ring over the last few jumps. This was super fun because it happened in front of a huge audience of people and there was an announcer giving the crowd a play by play over the loudspeaker. She tried to put a good spin on it for the crowd and had them cheering us on out of the ring but not exactly a crowd pleasing performance I'm afraid.

Overall it was a fun trial, small entry, nice courses, and one ring. What a luxury to not have to work classes that I'm also entered in as well as not having to run from ring to ring like a crazy person. It was a great opportunity for Strummer to get some ring experience with some huge distractions and who doesn't love a good pig contest?