Friday, January 29, 2010

Snowshoeing at Rocky Mountain National Park

An absolutely picture perfect day up at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Sunny blue skies, no wind, fresh snow glinting so brightly it didn't seem real.

Dream Lake

Doesn't look real

On the way to Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

We watched some crazy guy ski down that slope.

It's a short but steep hike from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake, maybe 3-4 miles or so round trip but challenging with the snow and the 10,000 foot elevation.  I went with a friend who's also unemployed and left the dogs at home since they're not allowed in the National Park.  Sometimes it's nice to have a walk without the crazies.  In general I prefer cross country skiing but sometimes I'll strap on the snowshoes for a fun winter hike to somewhere scenic that's difficult to reach on skis.  I have to concentrate when I ski but snowshoeing doesn't require any skill so I can let my mind wander a bit.  I forgot my gaiters in the car though and ended up with soaking wet feet from the snow getting in through the top of my boots.  It was warm enough and the hike short enough that it wasn't a serious problem but in different conditions on a longer hike my day could have gone a different way.  Won't make that mistake again.  I remembered before we started the hike too but I was too lazy to go back to the car to get them and didn't think I'd need them that badly.

Such a treat to be on that trail during a weekday.  On the weekends it's Grand Central Station, especially in summer, but today the crowd was small and we had fun chatting with some of the few people we came across.

The hike felt short and easy so I'm hoping that means I'm maybe sort of kind of getting into shape a little bit.  Last time I did this hike it felt longer and harder.  I made it to master's swim practice 3 times this week and took some long walks (1 1/2-2 hours) with the dogs.  I'll get a run in this weekend to round out the week.  If only my knee will hold out I might be able to get into some decent shape for races this summer never mind keep up with Strummer on that darn dogwalk.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Watching paint dry

Due to popular request, ie one reader in  the comments section, I'm posting the results of my house painting efforts.

I'm embarrassed to  post the before pictures now that I see how awful the walls were.  No, those dark spots aren't shadows, they are actual grime.  Yes I really was living like that and yes it was stressing me out and driving me crazy.  This is what happens when everybody is working and riding bikes and training dogs and too tired to paint and you spend your mad money on the dog agility instead of the painter.  See all that wallpaper?  Somehow it came down no problem, much easier than the border in the living room.  I think it was so old it was being held on with spit and a prayer.  Who puts wallpaper behind the oven?




I know, some of you are going 'Really, those are the "after" shots?'  But I love the color though admittedly it wasn't exactly what we were originally aiming for.  It looks different in different light and at different times of the day and was hard to photograph, especially since I hadn't worked out the manual settings for the camera yet.  I think I did a little better with the living room photos once I figured them out.

We also got rid of the big ugly bookcase thanks to all my purging but now we have nowhere for the recycle bins except the top of the fridge and I'm too short to reach them easily so I'll have to figure something out.

Living Room
I've been putting this room off for years because like the kitchen I knew it would be a huge job.  Those casement windows and fussy window sills were a screaming pain in the ass.  So many little ridges and crevices.  But I'm so happy now, I've hated that sea foam green for 12 years and finally it's gone along with the weirdo wallpaper borders that made the short walls seem even shorter.







I found a collage type frame that holds 9 photos so I was able to get rid of all but 2 of  the agility photos cluttering the top of the unit housing the records.  It has kind of a 3-D effect too, very cool find at Target.  We got rid of a bunch of records too so now they all fit in the unit.  We also pared down the 7"ers and bought some nicer looking boxes rather than the dumpy looking shoe boxes.  One of these days we'll live entirely like grown-ups.

Lola enjoying her new digs

It was a lot of work but I love my 'new' house.  We've lived here 12 years and finally it feels like ours.  Except for the part about all the money we still owe the bank.

The trim was supposed to be more of steely grey-blue and that's what it looks like on the trim away from the windows but it looks a lot more blue on the windows because of the effects of the light.  But I like all the different shades it presents itself as and we were tearing our hair out trying to find something that wasn't boring white that looked good throughout the day.

All that's left to paint is the dining room and 2 bedrooms, all of which should be easy except for the border in the dining room.  They're all relatively small rooms and shouldn't take much effort.  I'm taking a little break from it for now though, I'm a bit burnt out and the agility field has dried out so it's time to get back to training.

I knew Cody was smart but...

I bought a little dry erase board yesterday so Jonny and I could leave each other notes like grown-ups rather than using the backs of junk mail envelopes and random scraps of paper.  Seems that Cody has lost no time in figuring out a good use for it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stacy Peardot-Goudy Handling Workshop

Strum and I did a 1/2 day workshop last Friday.  Weird to be doing a seminar on a weekday.  The arena was up at Progressive School for Dogs, about a 50 minute drive in no traffic for me, and it was some kind of really nice artificial turf.  I've never done agility on that kind of flooring before and I liked it a lot.  Nice cushion and traction, no dust clogging up my lungs, wish we could trial on that all the time.  It was a nice facility and I know a lot of people who love taking lessons there but it's such a long drive.  It means over a 3 hour commitment for an agility lesson with a lot of people in the class and I'll only get a few turns plus all that gas and driving and pollution.  If only it was closer.

Anyway, I always have a few good revelations and things to work on after a Stacy seminar and this one was no exception.  Seems like I struggled more than I usually do, maybe because we haven't been able to practice much in the last 2 months because of the weather.  I can't remember the last time I had a lesson, probably in October.  It was an intermediate level handling seminar which may have contributed too.  It's hard to handle a fast dog on those open courses.  I did a lot of running and got a good workout in, that's for sure.  My IT bands were whining that night and Strummer was a little worn out which is nothing short of shocking.

I've recreated the course below as best I could from memory and the video.  It's not entirely correct obviously especially the distance between obstacle but it's close enough.  Also, that chute is drawn way too big.  It did not interfere with running from 13 to the cross between 15 and 16.  This is obvious on the video.

The hard parts for me were 8-10, 12-14 then getting that front cross in after 15 and getting the 16 jump.  Some people struggled with the #5 tunnel entrance, especially those who tried to handle it with the dog on their left.  I led out to between 4 and 5, picked him up on my right and it was no problem.

On the 8-10 sequence I stopped between 8 and 9 until he was committed to 9 then started moving again too soon before he checked in with me so he kept taking the #4 jump.  I got it eventually but it's something I'm going to set up and practice some more.  Lots of other people struggled in this area too and Strummer wasn't the only one tempted by that off course A-frame.

My initial thought for the 12-14 sequence was 2 front crosses and others tried handling it with a front then a rear.  Mostly the rears were miscued so there was a spin or some confusion and Stacy told us to handle the whole thing with the dog on the right like a serpentine.  I was one of the last teams to go so I handled it that way and never tried the crosses.  It was awkward at first but once I tried it a few times it started to feel o.k.  I never felt comfortable sending him ahead to the 14 jump though.  I had to get ahead while he was jumping #12 to cue that #13 jump and by the time he caught up to me I ran out of running room to indicate #14 and had to run too deep into that pocket.  I'm going to set that up as well and practice holding back and sending.  Going too deep made the front cross after 15 challenging.  After the cross I felt like I had to run to my right to avoid the wing of the #16 jump and this maybe pulled him off the jump.  Being able to send to 14 and run deeper into the cross would have been extremely helpful.  I got it after a few tries but Strum wouldn't read the cue.  Maybe he'd had enough at that point, he was also dropping bars and running past jumps.  Not a lot, but enough that it made me think he was losing his concentration.  In any case, something to set up and work on.

Here's some video.  It's heavily edited.  I removed most of the mistakes, not because I'm trying to make us look perfect but because I thought they would be annoying to watch.  I left a few in to show  how things can go wrong but only 1 rep of each mistake.  I'll be honest there were a lot more in real life.

Stacy Peardot-Goudy Intermediate Handling Workshop Jan. 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

You can click on the link for the video if you want to watch it on a bigger screen.

I've got a big 4-day seminar coming up in 2 weeks with Mary Ellen Barry and Jennifer Crank.  I signed up mostly  to audit a bunch of stuff for free but I also signed up for a working spot learning APHS handling (Linda Mecklenburg's system) on one of the days.  The price was ridiculously inexpensive for club members so I thought I'd splurge for 1 day and it's so rare to get anybody knowledgeable teaching this system in my area.  Joy has been great so far but it will be interesting to learn from someone else as well.  Definitely looking forward to this one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Silent and grey

A grey day out at the Rez today.  At least it didn't rain like they said it might.

Funny to think that I swim here in the summer.

The Trouble Twins didn't care, they kicked up their heels and had a grand old time.


Boulder gets a lot of sunshine, even in the winter so it's not typically the grim affair that I experienced when I lived in Chicago.  Still we seem to be having a spell of grim grey weather despite the warmish, mid 40 to high 50 degree temps. and the trails have been a mess for weeks and will continue to be for some time.  I was sure this snow at the Rez would be gone by the weekend but here we are at Wednesday and still it persists.

Strum says quit yer gripin' and throw the ball dammit.

The sun came out later today though so I can't complain.  And it's nice to be able to come to the Rez in winter.  I don't typically go when I'm working because it's too cold first thing in the morning before work and pitch black by the time I get there after work.

 They had one of those Polar Bear Swims here on New Years Day.  No I didn't go, I don't do that kind of crazy.  As you can see the water quickly froze over.  Can't imagine how they removed all that ice in the first place for the people to get in and 'swim'.  Crazy.

Yeah Strummer I see the ball, really I do.

Hard to get too glum about the weather with these two crazies to entertain me.

Finally got the #$%@ living room painted so I should be back to posting a bit more.  I've got a 1/2 day Stacy Peardot seminar on Friday so hopefully I'll have something interesting to report.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Strummer USDAA video

Thanks to Greg I have a video of Strummer's Standard run at the USDAA trial a couple of weeks ago.

USDAA Jan 2010 Strummer from colliebrains on Vimeo.

The big surprise was the call on the dogwalk, I was sure he had gotten it.  It's impossible to say from the video but it looks like a leap but that maybe he still hit the yellow but the judge had a better view than I did (I was behind) and he was lenient with his contact calls all weekend so I don't doubt the call.  It's disappointing that I read it as a hit though.  At one point when we were practicing almost daily I could usually tell from the sound of the footfalls whether it would be a hit or not and I'm either losing my touch or he's come up with some weird striding where he can still miss at the very end.  Time to get out the video camera again and see where we're at.  On the plus side his A-frame is perfect and oh if only he'd do the teeter that way all the time.

He seems nicely focused though, no running amok just some baby dog errors that I feel we shouldn't still be having.  Despite my poor financial situation I signed us up for a half day workshop with Stacy Peardot hopefully to work on some basic training holes.  We're in such a weird place right now I'm not sure what we know and don't know and I've been so focused on equipment rather than basic handling.  Haven't had a lesson with Joy in months because all the practice fields have been snowed in.  Frustrating to have all this time off and not be able to practice on a regular basis.

Instead I've started on painting the living room and it's going at a snail's pace.  I had to remove a hideous wallpaper border, a chore that I thought would take an hour maybe two and it ended up taking all day and I still have a bunch of glue to remove that should take at least anouther 2 hours.  Apparently the key is fabric softener mixed in with the hot water and I didn't break down and buy some until I had spent nearly all day scrubbing at the glue and backing paper with only hot water.  The stuff in the kitchen came down no problemo with hot water so I don't know.  I've got some words for the asshat who invented wallpaper if ever I run into him.  Or maybe I should have the words with the former home owner since I know where he lives.  I'm so happy now that it's finally gone, funny how such a stupid thing makes such a big difference.  Now if only I could figure out what color to paint the walls.  I wanted to do them in a light yellow but none of the samples in the store look right on the walls.  We have a lot of windows and get a lot of light in the room and for some reason none of the colors look like they're supposed to when I get them on the walls.  The same color looks totally different in the kitchen than it does in the living room.  Frustrating and I feel like I'm at the point where it's a guessing game.  Still, the primer that I've got up so far is better than the hideous sea foam green walls we had.  Just wish I hadn't gotten so much of it in my hair.  At least Strummer has only a tiny bit on him so far.  I'm sure he'll get more colorful as the project progresses.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Skiing at Brainard

I had a beautiful day of back country skiing up near the Brainard Lake Recreation Area with one of my friends who's also been laid off.  It's about 50 minutes of driving on icy, snow packed twisty mountain roads to get there but the roads were plowed and sanded and I drive like a little old lady in those conditions so it was no problem.

The combination of the 10,000 ft elevation and steep, hilly trails made for a challenging day.

Waldrop Trail

It's been years since I've skiied on the Waldrop Trail and I'd forgotten how challenging it is with some super steep hills on a huge camber with turns and rocks thrown in for good measure.  I had to get off my skis and walk down a hill or two because the camber was too scary but I made it down one crazy ass steep hill without needing a new pair of pants.  Just.  The portion of trail shown above is a not so bad part but you can see how rolling it is.  I didn't realize it but it's rated as a black diamond (difficult) trail and I have a friend who took a bad tumble off his mountain bike and cut himself open on one of the hills.  We were rewarded with a nice view of Mt. Audubon at the end though so it was worth it.

Mt. Audubon is the highest mountain in Colorado that I've hiked to the top of.  It's something over 13,000 ft.  I don't like hiking for very long or very high above treeline, it's rocky and I find it boring, so I have yet to attempt a 14er.

I was bundled up in a lot of clothes for skiing but it was cold and I was dressed just right.

We opted to take an easier blue diamond (intermediate) level trail home (CMC South).

My friend insisted on shooting some video so you can have a laugh at me shuffling through the snow.  I do not have crazy mad kick-glide skilz.

I was on the lookout for moose the whole time since there'd been a number of sightings and we came across a guy who saw a pair of bull moose but they were about a mile away in the wrong direction and I figured that by the time we got there they'd be long gone.  Didn't see any this time but maybe that's a good excuse to make another trip up there.  I think I'll wait for the next snow though because the predictions for sunny skies and temps. in the high 40's, low 50's for the next week down here in town sounds to good to leave behind for the cold high country.  Maybe the agility field will even be melted by next week and we can get back to work on those darn weave pole entries.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I was planning on today being a rest day for the dogs since it was supposed to be in the teens.  But the Trouble Twins were going a little nutty.

Who us?

Do you see those lovely minty green walls?  Those are finally going to go.  Hopefully next week.  I don't care if I have to live with primer, it'll be a huge improvement.

It was 14 degrees outside but bright and sunny and no wind to speak of so I bundled up the dogs in coats and booties and threw on every last bit of fleece I could find as well as my Yax Trax and headed for the hills.

This better be worth it

Ready for action

Or maybe I'll stay home with my ball instead

Yesterday's walk was a nightmare as it was warm the day before causing a fair amount of snow melt then the temperature plummeted overnight along with crazy high winds and  roads and sidewalks that had been mostly clear for over a week were suddenly covered in black ice.  The first 2 miles were o.k. then it started to snow and a thin layer started to cover the ice and I nearly slipped and caught myself about a zillion times.  The last mile home was treacherous and I nearly made it but a block and a half from home I went down on a patch of black ice as I was trying to avoid a different  patch of black ice.  I came down hard on my elbow but I was fine, thankfully.

We had about 3" of snow in the end and I knew the trail was snow packed before the new snow fell so I figured if I kept to the trails today in my Yax Trax I'd have a better chance with the ice.  I picked a route that has a couple of short but steep hills and when we got to the top of the last one and turned back to go home Lola kicked up her heels in joy and took off running.  Unfortunately I was attached to her and the 3 of us ended up flying down the hill.  When we got to the bottom I was feeling good so our nice little walk/hike turned into a run.  I was wearing way too many clothes for running and was soaking wet when I got home despite the 14 degrees.  It's amazing how warm it can feel here when the sun is bashing away and the winds are calm.  I was warm before we even started running and had to keep taking my hat and mittens off and on.

It felt good to get a decent workout in when I was planning for a rest day and the dogs loved it.  I had wanted to go to the pool but I went yesterday and Holy News Years Resolution Batman I forgot about what a nightmare the Rec Center is the week after New Years.  Every year I forget about it until it's too late.  My master's lane was crammed full of 8 people (24 people attended a workout that normally attracts 18) and the locker room was scary crowded.  I was on the verge of a panic attack with all the people cheek to jowl and I couldn't face it again today.  I figured it would be too cold to go out so I had planned on a rest day.  Thanks to my crazy dogs I ended up having a decent workout on what turned out to be a gorgeous day.  The sun was shining, bright blue skies, fresh beautiful sparkly snow and the trails nearly to ourselves, what more can you ask for?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Frankly, Mr. Shankly

I had a job interview yesterday morning which in itself was kind of amazing.  I was surprised to see the initial job posting because there's no work and no one hiring in my field and I keep getting responses to resumes saying that they're not expecting to be hiring until spring of 2010 so I was curious to know how it was that this firm had work.  I did some research on the firm and it seems they do mostly bridges and civil type work while I do buildings and while there seems to be a fair amount of bridge work around the building industry is at a standstill.  Turns out they have some building work that they normally contract out and want to try to bring in-house but not enough to justify a full time engineer.  So the position is for an expert in buildings who could handle all aspects of the building work on their own then also start learning the bridge engineering work on an entry level basis.  On the one hand this sounds to good to be true because it would be the ideal way for me to get my foot in the door with bridges without having to go all the way back to an entry level salary.  On the other hand I'm sure the salary will be less than what I was getting previously and that wasn't much to begin with.  Then there's the problem of the 50 minute commute to Denver.  And that's if there's no traffic so probably more like at least an hour or more each way during rush hour.  But it's not like they made me an offer so there's no point putting too much mental energy into worrying about it.  The interview went well, I was there over an hour, but I learned a long time ago not to start mentally moving into an office no matter how good a fit you think the job is or how well the interview went because you never know.  The interviewer told me they may even forget about having a building engineer and just hire a recent grad for the entry level bridge position.  He was the one trying for the former option but it sounded like he still might have some people to convince.

We'll see what happens but more and more I'm coming to the conclusion that my best option may be to open up shop for myself.  I think I can make the most money this way and also work part time if I want and have a flexible schedule.  The thing I've been loving the most about having my days free is being able to take the dogs out in the daylight and heat of the day rather than scrambling around first thing in the morning in the cold and dark while I'm rushed and sleepy and crabby.  I'm having a hard time seeing myself going back to the corporate world (this is a big corporation with offices across the country) and a horrid commute.  But we do what we need to do to keep the lights on and if they made me an offer with a reasonable salary I'd almost certainly accept it.  Would be fun to learn the bridge side of my profession and it seems like a nice office with nice people so we'll see.

Was a bit of a jolt to be interviewed by someone who looked about 10 years younger than me.  Now that made me feel old.  I don't have a problem with working for someone younger than me but it sure had me feeling my years.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fasten Your Seatbelt-USDAA Trial Castle Rock

A fellow agility competitor and sometimes blog reader said that to me when she saw that I was getting ready to run Strummer today and it made me laugh.  So true.  Now I'll think of it every time I step to the start line with Mr. Crazypants.

I've been a bad blogger, I know.  It snowed so we dusted off the back country skis and went skiing on trails for the first time in years then we decided to paint the kitchen then next thing I knew it was the weekend and time for a USDAA trial.

Did somebody say agility??!!

I entered a very limited number of classes in the interest of saving money and my sanity since both dogs are in different levels and I didn't want to be running from ring to ring.  Lola ran on Saturday in Masters Standard and Gamblers and on Sunday in Standard and Strummer ran only on Sunday in Starters Standard and Jumpers.  No Q's for Lo but both her Standard runs were so close, just a little handling/timing glitch in each on some darn tricky courses.  So frustrating on one level but on the other hand she was running so nicely, had awesome tables for both runs, hit a difficult weave entry after drifting away from the poles towards a tempting off course trap then coming back at a terrible entry angle and nailing it, and generally running with her happy face on so I can hardly complain.  She turned 9 last month and I don't know how much longer she'll keep going so I'm thankful for every run I have with her.

Damn straight.

Strummer had a beautiful Jumpers run, Q and a 1st place, 6.02 yps.  There were a couple wide-ish turns, otherwise he would have been faster but all the bars stayed up and he stayed focused and on course, can't complain about that.  I had to run my butt off too, there was only one change of side after obstacle 3 and the rest of the course was a series of loops with no side change.

Standard probably didn't look all that great to the innocent bystander but I was so pleased with him.  Hit all his contacts, nice teeter, weaved the full set of poles no problemo, and he was focusing nicely.  I'm finally starting to have some confidence in our teamwork.  Still a long ways to go but today as well as the last DOCNA trial felt like some good progress.

He was also so well behaved in the indoor arena.  He had a few moments but for the most part, such a good boy and a huge improvement over his first time at this arena 3 years ago when he was up on his hind legs screaming and lunging and I had to take him out almost immediately.  It was a 2 ring trial too but there was metal fencing with paper taped to it to form a nice visual barrier and the 2 equimpment trailers in between the rings so I felt like it wouldn't be a problem and it wasn't.  He never even noticed the other ring when it was his turn to run.

Kind of a bittersweet weekend for me since this was Cody's last USDAA trial last year.  He went on to do a DOCNA trial in February and that was the end of his agility career.  He's been gradually losing strength in his rear legs and a few months ago I made the decision to stop taking him running with me.  He came up lame in his front shoulder (can't remember if it's the one he had surgery on) a few months ago but after some brief rest and a slow return to activity he seems to be doing fine.  Jonny had him running off leash at a park today and said he looked great.  But it looks like mostly leash walks and easy off leash running for him from now on.  I've also been working on tricks with him since he loves clicker training and some easy playing in the house and yard.  He's looking so old to me these days though, especially at night when he curls up next me on the couch.

My sweet boy.

Next trial is DOCNA in February only 20 minutes from home.  Hopefully some of this snow will melt so we can get some practice in.  Both dogs had one day of practice at the field and one day of indoor course run-throughs for the entire month of December due to the agility field and my yard being snowed in.  It's unusual for it to hang around for so long and there's talk of more of it on Wednesday so maybe training will be on hold yet a little bit longer.  Guess I'll have to get started on painting the living. room.