Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Xterra photos

They posted the official race photos already, can't believe they got them up so quickly.

My favorite-the look of horror on my face on the Slip-n-Slide as I head toward the tub of filthy water.
Here's the whole sequence of events.
Running leap
In the drink
Drowned rat/wet t-shirt

The rest are maybe not so interesting but I'll post the links anyway.  It's nice to see the course at least.

My crooked helmet looks dorky but oh well.  I've never been able to get it to fit right no matter how much I mess with the straps.  I look pretty bad ass in front of all those guys though.
Uphill bike 1
Uphill bike 2
Tight turn
Up the switchback

I felt a lot worse than I look, trust me.  It was all I could do to break into a run for the photos.
Run 1
Run 2
Run 3

Podium  (I'm on the far left in blue)

There's also a 22 second video of people on the Slip-n-slide (not me thankfully).  At the very end you can see how horrible the water is.

The poor photographer-a woman a few seconds ahead of me on the bike begs him not to take her picture.  He tells her no, don't worry, you look fabulous.  Then I whine at him that I surely have chocolate on my face because of course I try to eat some gel right before the photographer.  He says no, you look fabulous.  I wonder how many other women whined at him.  I wonder if any men whined at him.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Xterra Lory Triathlon 2010

I'm hard pressed to remember ever doing a race that hard and that includes 4 marathons.  This was already promising to be a difficult day for me but the blazing heat and sun pushed it to a whole new level.  Temps. were maybe in the high 80's, low 90's?  I don't know, it's hard to make an accurate judgment when it feels like your head is about to melt.  It was in the mid-90's in Boulder by 4:00 anyway.  Plus the course has not a single moment of shade.  And it seems I can't get through a triathlon this year without suffering the indignity of some stupid ass embarrassing situation.

Is there anything more cheery than the sight of the bright orange swim buoys on race morning?  At least the swim went well.

Ready for action

800 meters/875 yards
I have a bit of wetsuit panic in the couple weeks before my race when both my wetsuits-full suit and shorty-get holes and/or start falling apart.  I loudly proclaim to anyone who'll listen that there's no way I'm getting into Horsetooth Reservoir on the last weekend in August without a wetsuit.  Because last year it was freezing, at least the air temp. was.  Hands up who likes trying on bathing suits?  Trying on wetsuits is even more humiliating.  It's like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube.  Plus do you know what those things cost?  It's even more fun when it's 97 degrees outside and the triathlon shop has marginal air conditioning.  Let's just say I set a record for longest amount of time to put on a wetsuit.  A customer comes into the shop and unawares that I'm sweating it out with a rubber octopus in the fitting rooms proclaims, 'Boy, you can really smell those wetsuits can't you?'  Wetsuits have to fit precisely in order to work effectively and not chafe you to a blistery hell so it takes many tries and a custom order but finally I get my suit the Thursday night before my race.  I take it for a test drive out at the Rez on Saturday and it's so fabulous, better than my old suit.  Fits better, more buoyant, comes off easier, I will fly in my race for sure.  Plus it has cool pink racing stripes, I'll look fabulous as well and maybe less like a whale but it still says 'Orca' on it.

What do you suppose the water temperature was on race morning?  74 degrees.  Yeah, I didn't need a wetsuit at all after all that fuss and bother and the Elites weren't even allowed to wear one.  Lucky I'm not an Elite because I wore it anyway as did most people.

Couple lessons learned from my little tri last week-mirrored goggles for one.  Those helped with the glare because once again I was swimming into the sun.  Also, I kept to the inside of the pack this time rather than the outside.  I was in perfect line with the buoys so got to swim the shortest line and for some reason everybody kept wide so I had a nearly clear shot the whole way.  Had to swim around a few people who were stopped and treading water, couldn't figure that out but people do it out at practice at the Boulder Rez too.  Wetsuit feels great and I turn in a time of 17:44 which includes the run to transition.  Take off a minute for the run and that comes out to 1:55/100 yards which is on the fast side for me.  Thank you fancy pants wetsuit.

The only other excitement during the swim comes at the start of my wave when 2 men from another wave who are heading for the finish swim directly towards us as the announcer say '30 seconds to start'.  Everyone starts yelling and they finally realize they're about to be mowed down by 50 or so women and make a hasty change of course.  I'll bet one was following the others feet and never noticed how far off course he was being led astray.  That's a lesson for you kids, be sure to look where you're going every once in a while.

12 miles
Here's the fun part and the part I most fear.  I never make it back to Lory to practice the course.  The Daisy Peel seminar was a mere 15-20 minutes drive from Lory but what would I do with the dog while I was riding?  And who would want to sit next to me?  So I did a lot of riding other places but mostly cool places, up in the mountains, in the nice shady woods.  Why torture myself with riding in the heat when there's little chance that my race will be hot?  Last year I was going hypothermic on the bike and I think I even had some fingers turn white.

See those hills in the photos above?  That's where we're riding.  They don't look like that much but when you add up all swimming/biking/running they take their toll.  The big hill part that they've added is at the start of the bike.  You get a bit of a warm-up, 1.5 miles or so, but then it's up the steep singletrack for 2 miles then a 3/4 mile descent.  That first 4 1/4 miles takes 45 minutes and the next 7 3/4 miles take 32 minutes so that gives you an idea of what I'm up against.  It's not ideal to be working so hard at the start of a race but you can only go so slow before you topple over so I have to grunt my way up.  I pass some people, some people pass me and it's not as big a problem as I thought it would be.  There's a chatty woman at the start of the singletrack and she stays behind me for most of the way.  I ask her if she wants to pass but she says no, then she couldn't watch my streamers and they are an inspiration.  I resist the urge to overexert myself to pull away from her-she's trying to be nice but I don't like wasting precious energy on chatting during races especially when I'm fighting for every breath on a bad ass hill.  I answer her with grunts and wheezes and finally she stops trying to talk to me.  Then I feel bad about being grumpy.  I lose her somewhere near the top of the climb.

I'm already too hot by the time I make it to the top of the hill and I'm on the verge of a mental breakdown at the thought of having to come back here and run up this bastard.  How hot am I going to be by then?  I'm not sure how that's going to work but I can't dwell on it because now I have the dreaded descent to deal with.  Steep.  Sharp switchbacks.  A few rocky technical bits.  Oh joy.  A couple of guys in their 20's pass me right near the top of the hill and as they start their descent they let loose with a loud, joyous 'Woo Hoo!' and fly down the hill out of sight.  My first thought is 'Crazy.  Those boys are crazy'.  My second thought is that there are pretty much only 2 approaches to this descent.  The 'Woo Hoo' approach of flying down with wild abandon and the 'Holy Sheet' approach of death grip on the brakes.  I say to myself, 'Do you want to be a Woo Hooer or a Holy Sheeter'?  O.k., o.k. I'll try the Woo Hoo approach.  So  I say it in my head-woo hoo.  No, let's try it again.  Woo Hoo.  Better but not there yet.  WOO HOO!  and I let go the brake and down I go.  Woo Hoo, Woo Hoo, Woo Fucking Hoo.  Then a few bits of 'Dirty Old Town' by Ted Leo which is a cover of a Pogues song which probably isn't really a Pogues song but rather an old traditional song but if you've heard it it's probably the Pogue's version that you've heard.  But this situation calls for the Ted Leo version over the Pogues because if I think of the Pogues sooner or later I'll start envisioning Shane McGowen's teeth and you go ahead and google that (I dare you) and tell me if you think that's a good visual to have on a scary mountain bike descent.  Anyway, wouldn't you know it, the Woo Hoo approach works.  I pass a buncha people, ride some stuff I know I had to walk last time and it's actually fun instead of scary.  Who woulda thunk it?

Rest of the bike goes down without a hitch.  I end up in a group of 4 other women for a while.  I pass them on the flats & downhills, they pass me back on the uphills.  I pass them again on the really steep rocky uphills because they have to get off to walk and somehow I've unexpectedly turned into a mountain goat.  Then they pass me back on a more moderate climb with a couple miles to go and I never see them again.  Oh wells.

Bike time is 1:22:07 or 8.8 MPH.

4.8 miles/8K?
The run goes up the same bastard hill as the bike but at least when I'm done I get to go back to the finish.  The cruel thing about the run is that on your way out to the hill you run right past the finish area.  You can hear the cheering for all the people who are done and it seems horribly unfair that they're done and you have to climb a big bastard hill.  In the searing heat.  Aid stations on the run are sparse because there's no way to set one up on the singletrack.  There's one at the start of the hill and I pour a couple cups of water on my head and guzzle what I think I can keep down.  I didn't drink nearly as much as I should have on the bike.  Here's a tip kids, if you're going to dump water on your head, take off your sunglasses first.  Trust me on this.

Last year I was able to run nearly the whole run, even up the hill, but not so this year.  Trail runners/racers will tell you it's more efficient to 'power hike' rather than run in many instances, especially if the hill is steep.  I put this to the test and it does feel faster but I can't help wondering if it's wishful thinking and I go back to running.  There's a woman behind me for a good distance.  She runs, catches up to me then walks and falls behind.  Then I have to start walking because my stomach is getting a little queasy and the heat is getting to me.  I walk a bit, run a bit and eventually the woman passes me.  She's not in my age group and even if she was I can't chase her in the heat.  The passing out in Chipotle episode has me on the cautious side these days.  For the most part I put it down as a weird, one-off occurrence but I'd be lying if I said it isn't in the back of my mind especially as I feel my brain starting to melt in the heat.

Nobody in my age group passes me until nearly the top of the hill.  Then a woman goes flying by and I try to convince myself that the number on her calf indicating her age says 40 and not 46.  When I received the starters list for my age group I noticed there were 6 people, 2 of which are crazy fast.  One of them won last year, coming in 3rd overall of all women and beating me by 45 minutes.  The other woman is even faster, coming in 1st or 2nd in my age group at Xterra Nationals last year.  I have no idea about the other women.  I know if only one person passes me I'm out of the money because those other two are far ahead.  Not that I'm banking on making the podium anyway.  Since the race is an official Xterra race this year and the bike portion is way more challenging it's attracted a fairly competitive crowd compared to previous years.  So I'm not sure if my chances for hardware have flown by with this woman or even if there are 2 other women already ahead and I have no chance anyway but chasing this woman is out of the question.  Aside from feeling bad from the intense heat I also start to feel the blisters on the arches of both feet and for some bizarre reason my middle toe on my right foot is killing me.  I've stumbled a few times and fallen once, is it possible I jammed it on a rock and sprained it?  The elastic laces on my shoes are too tight, something which didn't come up at the shorter race, and though I stop for a moment to loosen them it's a more complicated fix and I can't do much about it.  Should have had some longer practice runs with the elastic laces.  Also should have worn socks.  I race sockless all the time, not sure why I suddenly have blisters despite all the Body Glide and Aquaphor I globbed on my feet but oh well.  Nothing for it but to keep plugging along.

Last year I remember flying down the hill, not so this year.  The various pains in my feet and debilitation from the heat keep me at a slow steady pace.  The last 2 miles are a sheer test of will because I'm starting to get dizzy from the heat.  I have to alternate walking and running to keep from overheating.  I don't think I've ever had to walk in a race but I don't want to get heat stroke.  Those people who crawl over the finish line at the Ironman?  Yeah, that's not me.  I think it's 12 ways to stupid and I have no intention of crawling or passing out.  It's just a stupid race, let's see if I can finish it without needing medical assistance. 

Somehow, someway, I finally get off the trail and turn onto the road to the finish.  People standing around tell me 'Keep going, you're SO close', but I keep not seeing the finish.  I say to one of them 'Am I really close or are you people all lying to me??!!'  She laughs and tells me no, I'm really close.  Then I see it, the finish line, I can hardly believe it.  I cross it, stop, click off my watch then notice the people yelling at me that I haven't actually crossed the line yet.  Doh.  How I miss the timing mats and giant inflatable gate that says 'FINISH LINE' on it I don't know.

But hold on kids, we're not done yet.  There's a giant inflatable Slip-n-Slide thing just past the finish line and they tell me I have to do it.  I really really really don't want to and if my brain wasn't melted into a puddle of pudding I would have said 'No I don't think so' but without thinking it through I say o.k. and take a running leap onto my belly onto the slide.  Then I notice how absolutely filthy the thing is.  Then I come sliding to a halt about halfway down the slide, like a gutter ball except I'm at a dead stop.  I get on my hands and knees to crawl the rest of the way but it's hard work and humiliating so I manage to stand and take another leap and this one gets me to the end.  Which unfortunately is a huge tub filled with disgusting, filthy brown water that has been landed in by over 200 other sweaty filthy athletes before me.  I realize the horror too late and I'm helpless to prevent it.  All I can do is helplessly yell 'Oh how gross!  How GROSS!!!' before I fall victim to the laws of physics and plunge head first into the muck.  I climb out of the tub and I'm thoroughly soaked and grossed out and have a nice wet t-shirt contest look going for the post race food and raffle hanging out.   And yes folks, there's a photographer right there to capture the whole thing.  Because who doesn't want to look like Swamp Creature in a wet t-shirt for their finish line photo?

I manage to get down a reasonable amount of food and water so hopefully I won't get sick and pass out in front of all the people at the finish line because wouldn't that be a great end to the day?  I check the results board and I'm shocked to see that I'm 3rd out of 4 in my age group.  Guess 2 people didn't show up.  For the first time ever I'm nearly in tears at the thought of an age group award.  Normally it's not such a big deal and certainly not something I expect but it was such a monumental effort for me and such a tough race it would be so cool to come home with an award.  Then I notice they haven't posted the run portion yet, I was 3/4 off the bike.  Was the woman that flew by me in my age group?  I guess I'll have to wait and see.

I have some more food, see someone I know, Melissa, and have a little chat.  She's got her dog, a mini Rottie mix, with her and I give her some skritches.  The dog goes along with her and her boyfriend a lot when they bike and she's a solid chunk of muscle, even more so than most agility dogs.  And such a nice girl.  Melissa's relay team won the relay last year and her team wins again this year, beating the second place team by 27 minutes.  This is hardly a surprise because the swimmer is some phenom of a teenager, son of the woman who won my age group last year, and Melissa is one of the top mountain bikers in Colorado.  She used to race Xterra triathlons as a pro and was ranked 4th in the country.  But today she's just here for fun.

Finally they post the updated results and start the awards ceremony.  As I'm scanning the sheets they call my name for 3rd place.  I can hardly believe it.  I don't know that I've ever been so happy to receive an award at a race.  In past years they hand you your award and that's it but this year, perhaps because it's an Xterra, they have me stand on stage with the other winners for a podium photo.  I feel like a fraud up there with those women and I'm hoping my shirt has dried enough that the photo won't be too embarrassing but still it feels good.

Edited to add podium photo.  That's me on the left in the blue.  Big thanks to Melissa for posting it on Facebook.

Then I have the not so fun part of walking 1/2 mile in sopping wet shoes with my blisters rubbing away back to the transition area to pick up my bike then another 1/2 mile back to the car but at least I have dry sandals and socks in the transition area.  Blisters on the arches of your feet are problematic because how are you supposed to stay off them to let them heal?  They were horribly sore yesterday but doing better this morning.  Do NOT use Bactine on blisters.  The bottle, which says 'No sting' and 'Relieves pain on contact', lies.  That stuff does the exact opposite.  Did you hear my screams yesterday?  No agility practice for a few days at least and how will I exercise the dogs?  Guess it's a chance to brush up on some tricks training.  I've got some impressive bruises as well but those might have come from falling off a log into the creek in Crested Butte.  Too bad I'm not as agile as my dogs.

My award - an Xterra bronze belt buckle.  With a big X on it because I'm so extreme.

 Let me tell you, there are a lot easier ways to get a belt buckle.  And I don't even wear belts.


Swim:  800 meters/875 yards - 17:44 (includes run to transition), 1:55/100 yards not including run to        
                                                transition (estimate 1:00 to run to transition)
           Placement 196/268 overall

T1:  2:09 - 2nd fastest in age group

Bike:  12 miles - 1:22:07, 8.8 MPH
          Placement 203/268 overall

T2:  1:46, 3rd fastest in age group.  I took a few swigs of water and ended up choking a little so that wasted
                some time

Run:  4.8 miles/8K ?* - 1:18:11, 16:17 mins. per mile for 4.8 miles
                Splits:  Mile 1 - 15:21
                           Mile 2 - 18:12
                           Mile 3 - 15:09
                          Mile 4 - 14:35
                          Mile 4.8 - 14:45
         Placement 253/268

Nothing surprising there Mile 2 was the worst of the hill, I'm surprised Mile 4 was the fastest.  It was a slight downhill but it seems like I remember walking a lot of it because that's when I was really starting to get dizzy.
I did the run in 1:04/13:19 mins. per mile last year, the heat and bike course took its toll this year.  2 minutes per mile is a huge difference and my knee felt better this year, no complaints from it whatsoever.

*Race website says 8K/4.8 miles but 8K is really 4.96 miles so who knows how far it really was.  I'm guessing 4.8 miles.

Final Time:  3:01:56
                   Placements:  3/4 Age Group
                                     60/84 Females
                                     225/268 Overall

Friday, August 27, 2010


If there's a place on earth as beautiful as Crested Butte I surely don't know where it is.

We took a quick stealth trip to Crested Butte.  We were only there 2 nights, one full day but it was a nice break.  Usually we take our vacation in the fall but Jonny couldn't wait that long and it was nice to be able to go out at night without hat and mittens and the extra daylight was a plus.  For the first time ever it didn't rain the entire time we were there, freaky.  Even the weather people said so.  We enjoyed perfect blue sky sunny days in the 70's while our fellow Boulderites baked in near record breaking heat of high 90's.  Driving back into Boulder yesterday was like entering an oven.

Collie Flowers

I was worried that it wouldn't be as scenic as it is in the fall but I needn't have worried.  Huge meadows of wildflowers were bursting out everywhere, so bright and yellow they made your eyes hurt.  You can compare the picures from last year vs this year.  Photos are of the Copper Creek Trail.

                                                                                     Fall, 2009

Summer, 2010

The small 'town' of Gothic, right before the trailhead
It used to be a huge mining town back in the day, 1000 people supposedly, but now it's a handful of researchers.  I'd love to live/work there for a summer, sign me up.  If only someone would pay my mortgage while I was there.

Gothic is also home to Fantastic Mr. Fox

I could have gotten closer for a better photo (this is cropped and blown up a bit) but I didn't want to scare him into dropping his marmot meal and running away.  Carrying that gory mess was hard work for him.  We saw him again the next morning but he was off into the brush before I could get a good photo.

A splash of purple in with the yellow

Aspens and wildflowers

I dare you to eat me.

So many mushrooms everywhere, wish I knew what was what because I'll bet some of them were good.  I'm guessing the ones above not so much.

Once again a celebrity died when I went out of town.  This time it was George David Weiss.  I've never heard of him but I do know his famous songs, 'What a Wonderful World' and earworm supreme 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'.  Dennis Hopper went on Memorial Day weekend when I went to a DOCNA trial.  I wonder who will go when I go to DOCNA Champs?  Maybe I should start a poll.  Or then again maybe not.  I'm sorry celebrities but I need to get away every once in a while.

Cody did o.k. on the hike this time around but this is his last year on such a long hike.  It was about 7 miles or so and it was a bit much for him.  The trail is mostly level with a few modest climbs but there's a rocky steep 1/2 mile section at the start and finish and it took forever to get him over it.  He turned 12 in July and I think he's doing great but he's slowed down a lot and has days where I can barely get him to walk around the block.  On a good day he'll do 2-3 miles.  It was hard going to Crested Butte and not doing the more challenging high elevation hikes but I couldn't bare the thought of leaving Cody behind so we toned things down for him and kept the trip short.  Crested Butte will always be there but how many vacations do I have left with my Cody Baloney?  Lola had no problems whatsoever despite her recent knee issues.  Her P.T. had cleared her for this type of hiking so I wasn't worried about her and she was fine afterward.  I'm supposed to be hiking her more regularly but she's a challenging one in the woods because of her high prey drive.  All the little forest critters send her brain into overdrive and she tends to go off her head.

Vacation was fun but as always it's good to be home.

Monday, August 23, 2010

'Dogged Pursuit' book review by Mrs. Crankypants

I can't remember the last time I sat down for a day with a book.  I had plans for a hike in the high country with Strummer on Saturday but it soon became obvious that the race had taken more of a toll than I'd realized and I couldn't bear the thought of more driving.  Combine that with predictions of temps in the upper 90's in town and I decided to head to the library for some good summer reading prospects.  I was hoping for something other than a dog book but somehow the 'Dogged Pursuit' book by Robert Rodi ended up in my pile.  I don't know how because ever since Jon Katz I've become gun shy of books about people adopting a 'crazy rescue dog' and turning it around.  Aside from being a bad cliche there's also that icky feeling of exploitation.  Did the person adopt a troubled, fearful dog just so they'd have some good writing material?  I'm also annoyed by people who undertake year long 'experiments' in things and then write about them.  Don't even get me going about 'No Impact Man'.    I think it took me a full week to get over the irritation brought on by that that film.  The full title of the book is 'Dogged Pursuit:  My Year of Competing Dusty, the World's Least Likely Agility Dog', so that should have been a huge red flag right there that maybe I'm going to be wishing 'please can I have my day back' after spending it on this book.

I'll admit there are some funny bits and the guy is a decent writer.  On the cover there's a quote from Augusten Burroughs, author of 'Running with Scissors', that this book is 'Hilarious and heartwarming...'  I didn't like the movie 'Running with Scissors' and now I'm pretty sure that I won't like the book either if Mr. Burroughs is so utterly oblivious to the world that he finds anything the least bit 'heartwarming' about this unfortunate tale of woe.  The dog starts out the book fearful and hating agility, especially the competitions.  The dog ends the book the same way.  Robert adopts the dog with the notion that he's going to take this no-hope rescue dog and turn it into an agility champion.  He has a disturbing and almost childish obsession with Q's and titles and winning and 'glory' as he puts it.  He notices that the dog is miserable but he doesn't care, he decides the dog will have to learn to 'man up' and go for the glory.  Unfortunately he doesn't do a lick of behavioral work with this poor traumatized animal, he just keeps flooding it weekend after weekend by taking it to trials, abandoning it shaking and drooling in a crate in an overcrowded venue, then dragging it out a couple times a day so it can wander around the agility ring.  The man is so self-absorbed and set on his own personal goals that, knowing that the dog is scared of the teeter and likely to refuse it, he calls out 'dogwalk' during a run so the dog won't know it's the teeter and maybe he'll have a hope of finally Q'ing.  Yeah, it ends about as well as you'd think it would with the dog sailing off the end.  What sort of person does that to their dog?  By the end of the book the dog does manage to eek out a Novice Jumpers title in AKC but never gets a single Open Jumpers leg or Novice Standard leg (he doesn't compete in any venue other than AKC).  This is because he never manages to get out of a trot and often ends up wandering around because he's so scared and shut down and the best Robert can do for this poor dog is to take him to an Animal Communicator.  He flat out admits he's looking for a quick fix, he doesn't understand why everything with this dog has to involve 'work'.  Plus it gives him something funny and wacky to write about.  Seriously, this is 'heartwarming'?  Can I pretty please have my day back?

The only good news here is that Robert has moved on to another book writing project that's taking up all his time so he doesn't take Dusty to trials anymore.  I suppose maybe sometimes there is a good side to those 1 year 'experiment' writing projects.

My massage therapist brought me her copy of 'Merle's Door' today to lend to me but I think I'll have to wait for the 'ick' of this last book to wear off before I'm ready to attempt another dog book written by a guy who may or may not actually care about the dog.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Newton Trail Triathlon

Should we jump straight to the part where I suffer the indignity of my most embarrassing moment of my middle age to date or do you want to hear all the gory details?  I guess we'll start at the start since the moment happens fairly early on in the story.

This is a small race, only 51 people, held in the evening on the trails surrounding the Boulder Reservoir.  750 meter swim, 5 K trail run, 10 K trail bike is how they bill it but the run is way short, maybe more like 2 miles or less, and some people end up doing a 5 K bike while most of us do the 10 K due to some confusion amongst the volunteers that wasn't their fault.  This is how it sometimes goes in the world of triathlon, especially the off-road races, and you have to learn to go with the flow.  It's a very laid back, friendly race and nobody seems the least bit bent out of shape about it.

The Boulder Rez is around 10 minutes from my house so why I leave 2 hours before the start of the race is beyond me.  I end up sitting around baking in the hot 90 degree sun for an hour 20 minutes, not my brightest move ever.  I get a great spot in the transition zone though, right near the 'bike out' so I don't have to run far in my cleats pushing my bike.  I spend the time stretching and listening to bad 90's and modern rock coming from the race's speaker system.  I don't get Lady Gaga at all.  Well actually I get it but I wish we could get past it.  Didn't we already go through this with Madonna and like a million other people?  She's skeezier than Madonna I'll grant you that but that's a good thing?  Aren't we over the cheesy generic pop music delivered by scantily dressed crack whore routine by now?  Did Courtney Love teach us nothing?  It's 2010 already dammit, can't we please move on?  We need a good modern day Crissie Hynde or Joan Jett.  I do see a 12 year old boy rocking out when Joan Jett comes on singing about her Bad Reputation so I'm slightly encouraged for the future.  This is the best I can do for thoughts to occupy my brain while I wait for my race to start.

This race goes Swim Run Bike rather than the traditional Swim Bike Run and I wish they all worked this way.  Your legs are stronger for the run, none of this 'noodle legs' that you get when you come off the bike, then you can hammer all you like on the bike, no holding back for the run.  So much more fun that way.

The swim is a mass start because the race is so small and this freaks me out a bit.  Even though I start at the back it's chaos at first and I can't see the first buoy for all the splashing and kicking.  That little voice of panic/survival instinct starts urging me to forget these shenanigans and head back to the safety of shore while I still can but I know I can do this swim no problem, it's way shorter than what I normally do for my masters workouts.  I put a calming song in my head and start thinking about some things I've been working on with my stroke to take my mind off all the other people and soon I'm o.k.  The first 2 legs of the swim go by no problem but when I turn to head back to shore for the final leg I'm swimming directly into the setting sun and I can't see a thing.  All I can do is look for the heads of the other swimmers and this causes me to sight a lot more than I normally would so I lose some time.  I can't see the shore until I'm almost upon it. 

I decide to take my wetsuit off in the water since it comes off more easily when it's wet and I'll get a blast of cool water directly on my skin because even though it's evening it's still hot.  And here's where my story turns into a tragedy/comedy.  The first thing you need to know is that these days they give you such a huge timing chip to wear on your ankle that you feel like you're under house arrest.  The second thing you need to know is that Ian Adamson is the race director for this little shindig.  For those too busy to click on the link, Ian Adamson is the most successful adventure racer ever.  If you ever watched the old 'Eco Challenge' races on the Discovery Channel then you know who he is because his team won or placed top 3 in a lot of them and he's won zillions of others too.  These adventure races are held in challenging locations and last for days, the amount of skill and athleticism and mental toughness required for these things is off the charts.  Anyway, I manage to get my suit off past my butt and all I have left are the legs so I sit in the water and start pulling them off when I hear someone yell 'Wetsuit Strippah!' and I see this guy running towards me in the water and next thing I know Ian Adamson is pulling my wetsuit off me while I'm wallowing in 2' feet of water on my back like a beached whale wearing nothing but a running bra and an impossibly short pair of men's lycra triathlon shorts, pale white 46 year old stomach flapping in the breeze.  My wetsuit says 'Orca' on it and has white killer whale stripes/markings on it for added effect.  And of course the damn thing won't come off because the leg is stuck at the ankle on the massive timing chip.  It's been a long time since I've been this mortified and that includes all the indignities I've suffered at the hands of my dogs in the agility ring.  I tell him it's o.k., I can manage but he's intent on helping me and with one final tug he frees me from the neoprene straight jacket.  Now to be fair he really was trying to help me, if you enter a big fancy corporate type race with a big price tag they'll have wetsuit strippers on the beach to assist you getting your wetsuit off so to have such an esteemed athlete as my personal wetsuit stripper is quite the luxury but still I was so embarrassed.  To add to the horror there was a photographer on shore taking pictures of people at they came out of the water and I'm already having nightmares of a photo of this scene being put on the race website for next year.

Next up is the run which they try to make like a real trail run so the course goes along the rocky shore of the Rez, over some small ditches, up a very short steep rocky climb to the smoother dirt trail that surrounds the Rez.  Reminded me of cross country races from high school.  The main thing for me is not to twist my ankle on the rocks or fall and be screwed up for the big race next weekend.  This race is for training.

Towards the end of the run I start catching up to a woman who's running her first triathlon.  She's struggling a bit, stopping to walk at the rocky steep bits, and her husband or boyfriend is on the sidelines cheering her on.  He's wearing his fancy dress clothes from work but he runs alongside her for a bit to offer encouragement.  I'm chasing down a different woman so I'm kind of wheezing and huffing but I give her a barely coherent 'Good Job!' as I pass her because that's how it works in the triathlon world.  It's a tough thing to get off the couch and squeeze into the skin tight Lycra clothes that you would normally never be caught dead in and go do a race in front of people so if you pass someone you always give them a word of encouragement because good for them for even being out there.  As I'm heading out on the run one of the top 3 women coming back into transition says something to me as well but whether it's a 'Good Job' or a warning about a wardrobe malfunction I can't tell because I can't hear her over my own wheezing.  I smile at her anyway and carry on.

By the time I hit transition I've nearly caught up to the woman I'm chasing but I end up having a disastrous transition because my bike falls over and I need to make sure I at least take in some water so I don't pass out again afterwards and I have to switch my orthotics from my running shoes to my biking shoes and maybe knit a sweater so she exits on the bike with a better lead on me.  The bike course is 6 miles or so over gravel, grass, and dirt trails around the Reservoir.  There's one super steep short hill that pretty much everybody has to walk but other than that it's all rideable, nothing technical at all.  At one point I have to lift my bike over a gate that has barbed wired at the top of it and then climb over it myself (over a taller part that doesn't have barbed wire) and my back isn't happy about that.  I chase the same woman through the entire bike portion.  Sometimes she gets far ahead, mostly when there's a loose steep gravelly downhill with a turn because again I don't want to take risks and fall for a stupid practice race so I'm on the brake a bit conservatively but sometimes I get oh so close to her only to have her pull away again.  It's great to have someone to pull me along like that, otherwise I'll stop concentrating on the race and my mind will wander back to Lady Gaga and I'll end up riding along all La De Da.  With about a mile to go I realize I'm gaining on her again and that she seems to have let up her pace.  With about 1/4 mile to go to the finish I finally pass her on a gravelly bit that she's struggling with and hold my lead to the finish.  I finish 11 seconds ahead of her in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 7 seconds.

Final Stats:

Swim-750 meters (820 yards)-17:37 mins. includes wetsuit fiasco and run to transition, probably 16 mins. or
                                                so of swimming or roughly 2:00 min/100 yards, typical for me
T1-57 seconds

Run-maybe 2 miles or so?  maybe shorter-18:55

T2-1:16 mins

Bike-6 miles-28:25 mins.-12.7 MPH (off road)

Total:  1:07:07 (hrs/mins/secs)

27/44 Overall (long course)
14/24 Females
2/3 Age Group

I'm feeling o.k. about my race next weekend.  Not super crazy confident like this will be my best race ever but at least confident enough that it won't be a complete disaster.  And you can bet I'm going to take my wetsuit off on in the transition zone like a normal person this time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Daisy Peel Seminar-Masters Jumping and Handling

Masters Jumping

Thursday was a half day session in Masters Jumping and it was hot (mid 90's) and sunny for most of the afternoon.  We started out with a short sequence involving a push to the back side of a jump, a threadle and a rear cross.  The push to the back of the jump was a similar scenario to one from the Jennifer Crank seminar I did last February and since I'd made a mistake with the handling choice last time I remembered the 'correct' way to do it this time and handled it no problem.  I guess some things are finally starting to sink in.  The threadle was no problem, again stuff from that other seminar was a big help there.  The rear cross was another matter.  In fact so many people had trouble with the rear that the next thing we worked on was a rear cross drill.  Turns out my biggest problem with the rear cross is that I rush.  I scurry around all frantic-like.  Daisy told me to try walking through the drill taking big long strides (as big as I can manage with my short legs anyway) and I was amazed at how well that worked.  I also had trouble with a rear cross on the flat which I found surprising because I've been doing them in trials lately with no problem.  This was a much sharper turn though and I couldn't pull it off.  So she added a jump for us to head to then took away the jump.  We got it eventually but it wasn't pretty.  Something for us to practice.

We also worked on a jump drill that involved 3 jumps in a line and a curved tunnel at each end.  Send the dog through the tunnel then run down the line and send them through the other tunnel.  At first the jumps were evenly spaced about 18' apart then she moved the middle jump closer to one of the end jumps in 6" to 1' increments.  The idea was to get the dog to think about adjusting his stride for the shorter distance.  He wasn't allowed to bounce jump.  Strummer was completely off his head for this exercise in part because he was wound up from the sound of the other high drive dogs flying through the tunnels.  Every time the distance changed he'd bounce jump so Daisy put a jump bar on the ground where he'd want to land so he had to put in a full stride and that worked.  I'd never thought about bounce jumping one way or the other and it's not something I ever taught or encouraged but I could see how he had a lot more control over his body for the next obstacle when he added the stride versus flinging himself over the jump with the bounce.  I'll have to look at some of my old video but I doubt he's done much bounce jumping at trials because of the nature of the Starters courses he's been on in USDAA and even at the Masters level in DOCNA the jumps are a fair distance apart.  I'm supposing this is more of an issue for the tighter AKC/International style courses but it's something I'm going to start watching out for and may throw that drill into the mix every once in a while since clearly it's and issue for Strummer.

The final exercise was another tight, tricky course with a push to the back side of a jump and a threadle.  There were at least 7 different ways to handle it and we had to come up with 2 to try.  Strum was bouncing a jump again and sailing off into space for one of my handling choices but the other way worked o.k.

Masters Handling for high drive dogs

Friday was a full day of handling and the main difference from the day before was that we had a full course to handle that included weave poles.  No contact obstacles though, just jumps, tunnels and weaves so not all that different from the Jumpers seminar.  We had a much nicer day weather wise though-cooler and cloudy for most of the day with a bit of cooling light rain in the late afternoon.

Walking the first course of the day was intimidating.  It was a very technical international style course-more pushes to back sides of jumps and threadles-and there were people who are a lot more skilled than me who were puzzling over it.  It's not the sort of thing I see in competition, especially in DOCNA, and unless UKI catches on here it's not the sort of thing I'm likely to see.  Again it was very like the sort of thing I saw last February at Jennifer Crank's 'International Course' Seminar and thankfully there were a few things I remembered that helped me figure out what to do.  I needed some help with the execution of some of it but at least I wasn't totally lost with what was going on.  It's interesting to learn how to do this stuff from a handler's point of view but from the dog's point of view?  I can't imagine it's all that much fun for them compared to a course where they can stretch out and run a little more but I guess it depends on the dog.  Maybe some dogs are thinkers and like this sort of thing.  But I like a course with a bit of both, some running and some thinking and I think DOCNA and USDAA are a good compromise for that.  On the other hand while this sort of thing isn't my cup of tea-guess I'll never be on the World Team ; )-I can see the value in learning it.  The basic concepts of how to use your motion and other cues and how to combine them are applicable to any kind of course.  I think some of this stuff only seems more difficult because I'm not used to seeing it.

My biggest problem with my handling seems to be my rushing around.  This is no surprise, I even noted it a few posts ago in my DOCNA trial report.  Not many bars came down during the seminar and many that did come down were the result of rushing which is as I expected.  A couple came down that Daisy couldn't tell me why and this happens occasionally in lessons with Joy.  It's frustrating not to know why because how do you know what to work on but I guess for now I work on the things I know I can control, like my scurrying around in a panic.  I wasn't the only one there with this problem it turns out.  Not that I'd want to wish it on anyone.  Again there was a part of a course I was rushing and flailing my arms and worrying and Daisy told me to walk through it rather than run and sure enough it made all the difference, everything all calm and smooth (well, smoother anyway).  It'll be hard to have the discipline to do that during a trial but I think I'm going to have to experiment with it in places where it might be appropriate because it settles both me and Strummer and things go much better.

We did do one course that had a lot of running and distance between jumps, reminded me of a Snooker type course, and that was fun.  It wasn't easy and I had my share of mistakes, most of them again involving rushing things, but it was fun.

Overall it was a fun and worthwhile seminar.  It was tiring driving up to Fort Collins everyday (a little over an hour each way) but I found a scenic route through the backroads that was quicker than the highway which jangled my nerves on the first day and I had someone to carpool with one day so it wasn't so bad.  Normally I'm not fond of the seminar format, so much sitting around watching other people and waiting, I get bored after a couple of hours and I don't typically learn all that much from watching other people.  Occasionally I'll pick up little things here and there but it's not the most effective way for me to learn.  But there were a lot of great handlers there, it was interesting to watch them and to see that they also struggle with things. 

Strummer was bad in his crate for the first 2 days because it was too hot to put him in the car for most of the time and he got worse with each day.  It's simply too much stimulation for him to be so near the ring and it builds up making him even more sensitive to it.  Flooding doesn't work with this dog and in fact it makes him worse.  I did manage to keep him from barking his fool head off the whole time, just, and he wasn't disruptive to the seminar but it was tiring having to deal with him.  On Thursday it was cool enough that I could keep him in the car and it was a much more relaxing day for both of us.  He almost seemed relieved and I was able to watch the other people more and hear what Daisy had to say to them.  He was more relaxed ringside waiting his turn too since he wasn't spending all his down time getting worked up.  Silly dog, one of these days he's going to be normal, or so I keep telling myself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daisy Peel Running Contacts Seminar

Yesterday was a half day running contacts seminar with Daisy Peel.  It was her first such seminar and she was honest about being hesitant to even offer such a thing since she's only trained one dog to competition level so far and the training for running contacts is still in its infancy.  But in my mind somebody has to start somewhere so why not share what we know and what we've done so far and maybe it sparks further ideas and debate. 

You know how you can never seem to get your dog to make the mistakes you're having trouble with at the seminar in front of the expert eyes?  Yeah, not a problem for us yesterday.  Strummer had about the worst day he's ever had on the dogwalk, he was so high and wound.  Sky as a kite.  I wasn't thrilled with the huge number of misses but on the other hand I got exactly what I wanted, some feedback on what to do when he keeps failing like that.  A good part of the problem is that he doesn't care that he's failed.  Sometimes he'll get in a sort of loop where he'll repeat the same mistake over and over.  Not always, sometimes he'll start trying different things but sometimes he gets stuck.  So the suggestion was to take him by the collar back to the start of the exercise when he misses so he knows he's made a mistake.  Daisy felt he didn't even realize he'd made a mistake and I'm inclined to agree because he's quite happy to keep running around and start the exercise over again.  At the very least I think the act of leading him back to the start at a walk may help to calm his brain a bit.  It didn't seem to have much effect yesterday, he still had a very low success rate but I'm going to try this plan for a while and see if it works.  I'm going to try it with the weaves as well.  Daisy also said that some days are just bad training days and she'll stop if it's getting really bad which is what I've done on occasion.  I always wonder if it's better to push on through loads of failures or to call it a day and I guess the answer is that most of the time you push through but sometimes it's best to quit and I suppose you figure it out through experience.  She pointed out that you need to be able to tolerate your dog failing a lot if you're going to train running contacts.

One interesting deviance she had from the way I'd trained at the very start was that she had the dog sending away to a toy or treat gizmo on the flat, ideally at a run.  The idea was to simply observe what the dog would do.  One of the things we were watching for was would the dog pounce on the toy and if so how soon before it got to the toy.  If the dog starts pouncing way before it gets to the toy then you need to place the toy farther off the end of the plank when you get to that stage so the dog doesn't start pouncing while it's on the plank.  Then we progressed to sending the dog across a line of rubber backed carpet mats about the length of a dogwalk plank to the toy/gizmo.  I thought this was a really clever idea because you can easily take them anywhere to practice and I can't imagine they were hugely expensive.  Then we progressed to the slightly elevated plank.  When I started out the process I stood in front of the flat plank with Strum facing me and called him to me which obviously doesn't teach him to run out ahead of me.  I like the idea of teaching the send from the start.  Strum had difficulty figuring out that he had to run across the carpet mats but he was perfect once he got on the elevated plank.  This mirrors how our original training went, he had a hard time on the flat plank but things improved once we got to the elevated plank.  It was the full length dogwalk that was a disaster.  In fact all the dogs that did the full length dogwalk had a fair amount of misses, including one that's had a nice dogwalk in competition for a few years now from what I've seen though I don't see this dog all the time.

A funny aside was that one of the reasons Daisy gave for choosing to train running contacts was that she was bored with Q'ing all the time and a few others chimed in with the same 'problem' and these were people with fast dogs.  The certainty of Q'ing was boring to them.  I don't know, I'd love to have some people's problems and I heartily offered up Strummer to them if they'd like a bit of uncertainty.  I'd love to see a top handler running him or even someone who halfway knew what they were doing though, that would be cool to see.

Yesterday was hot, high 80's I'd guess and today is supposed to be 96.  Not my favorite sort of weather for agility.  Luckily there's a hose at the site so I kept Strum doused in water all day yesterday and he seemed fine.  Plus it's a great reward for him, better than food or a toy, and even though it's weird and a bit inconvenient Daisy encouraged me to let him have it.  I've been using the hose to reward him after his runs at trials so I was happy to be able to use the hose for reward at the seminar.  This afternoon I go back for Masters Jumping, we'll see if my brain melts.  Maybe I'll get under the hose myself.  Agility wet t-shirt contest anyone?  I took Strum for a run this morning so hopefully he won't be so over the top today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DOCNA in Denver

A fun weekend of DOCNA for Mr. Strummer man and me.  I originally signed up for only Saturday but they were taking day-of entries for Sunday and we had so much fun that I decided to go back for more.

Not a lot of Q's but lots of good stuff and improvement.  He's finally getting his weave entries, not 100% but it was his best trial by far.  'Over the top' agility training must be working.  My training partner had much success with her contacts too.  The dogwalk success rate seems to be improving slightly as well.  He had some fantastic tight 180 degree flips off the dogwalk and A-frame into tunnels off just his verbal cue.  The key is for me to tell him early, right before he hits the down plank, and to not overwhelm him with too much body language (ie turning into him and/or waving that outside arm to indicate the flip). 

Strum did get the one Q I really wanted, Intern Standard, which earned him title and puts him in Specialist (Masters) in everything.  Was a beautiful run too, everything nice and tight for 1st place and a 5.50 yps. and nearly 20 secs. under standard course time.  His first shot at Specialist Jumpers was also a beautiful run, 6.22 yps and .01 yps behind a dog that regularly makes the USDAA Finals and has some podium finishes as well.  That was a fun run.  Except for the one stupid bar that came down but oh well.  On Sunday's Jumpers run I tried to be patient and focus on my timing/handling and not rush in order to keep the bars up and I did a good job of it, no bars down, but unfortunately I took a wee wander around the course in not the direction that the judge had in mind.  Was such a wonderful run otherwise and I thought I'd made up quite the creative course.

Had another fast, tight Standard run on Sunday for his first go in Specialist for a Q and 1st then his second Standard run was something of a disaster, likely because I was rushing. 

Don't have time to go through the rest of the gory details of all 10 runs but in general if I my timing was late or I was rushing things went south very fast.  If I was focused and patient then things went much better.  As I suspected Specialist courses are so much easier for me and it seemed like there were less problems with bars coming down.  There are so many more turns and places to collect him, I prefer them over the nightmare of Starters.  Let's forget about Starters and never speak of it again.

Final Stats:

Intern Standard-Q, 1st place (5.50 yps)
Specialist Standard-Q, 1st place (5.29 yps)
Specialist Strategic Time Gamble-Q, 2nd place

Titles Earned:

Intern Standard (last Intern title)

No more trials until DOCNA Champs at the end of September and I'm not happy about that.  May decide to enter a run or two in USDAA over Labor Day but I'm back in Starters and Advanced and I want practice on more difficult courses.  Today I have a half day Running Contacts seminar with Daisy Peel then a half day of Master Jumping tomorrow then a full day of Masters Handling for high drive dogs on Thursday, which is also my birthday.  Bizarre way to spend your birthday I suppose but oh well, I'm looking forward to it.  Better than spending it at work which is how I usually spend it when it falls on a weekday.

Did a brick (bike then run) yesterday and lived to tell the tale.  We'll see how well I keep up with Strum today.  I have a triathlon (not my big race) this Friday night too on top of all else.  Gotta pack in all I can before summer bids adieu.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Arapaho Glacier Trail

Say cheese

We did the Arapaho Pass Trail last year and you can see the photos and enjoy Strummer's tour here.  The first 2 miles of the trail are the same and it's interesting to see how much more snow was on the mountains in July which is when I went last year vs one month later in August of this year.  It's amazing how quickly the snow melts in the summer.

I almost didn't start the hike because the wind was howling so badly in the parking lot.  I'd brought warm clothes but not a hat and mittens because hello, August, hat and mittens never crossed my mind but it was a cold wind for no hat.  The trail starts at 10,120 feet and I turned around at about 12,200 feet/3 miles and the wind and these elevations can be brutal when it's bad.  But we'd braved the rough steep dirt road for 25 minutes and in fact Strummer had started whining maybe halfway up Boulder Canyon so after listening to 45 minutes of him carrying on I was going to have some kind of hike dammit.  Poor dog hates steep twisty roads and it's even worse if they're rough bumpy dirt.  Poor guy was a basket case when we got out of the car.  But as you can see from the photo above he quickly got over it and there wasn't a peep out of him on the drive back home.

This trail is famous for its wildflowers and even though it's a bit late in the season there were still plenty of beautiful displays.

Maybe you can sort of get a feel for the wind from the photos.

Here's a photo of the glacier.  At this point the wind was still not too bad.

If the trail gets faint just look for the cairns (heh)

Once the trail started getting well above treeline and more exposed the wind became much fiercer and colder.

The trail winds up this hillside.

Not a bad view to admire while having a snack so as not to pass out in the Boulder Chipotle.

This was my turn around point.  You can see the road I came up on and the very tippy top of the Eldora ski area to the right of and above the road.

The trail continues on up to the top of South Arapaho Peak shown here but I wasn't up for those shenanigans, especially in that crazy wind.

As it was a couple of my fingers turned white and started to go numb.  Luckily the descent went quickly and when I got back to the main trail the wind had died and it was nice and toasty.  Well, 60's anyway.

Heading back down.  You can see the Arapaho Pass trail down below and heading for the saddle which is the one I hiked last year.

Baby Ptarmigan
Mom and the other baby took off running when they saw us but this baby froze and decided to rely on his camouflage.

Giving me the stink eye.  At this point he was fed up to the eyeteeth with posing for photos with the wildflowers.

We were out for around 4 hours, I'd say 3 1/4-3 1/2 of that was hiking.  I stopped a few times for food/electrolytes.  What a pain but I've been feeling so much better for it.  The electrolytes help to balance the PH of the stomach so I don't get nauseous and I can eat more which also helps with the nausea and the not passing out.

DOCNA trial tomorrow, we'll see if I have any legs left.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Winter Park, Mesa Trail, and some weave practice

My contract work is mostly done for now.  There will probably be little bits of mop up work as time rolls on but for the most part I'm on vacation.  How long that vacation lasts remains to be seen but for right now I'm so tired and burnt out that I'm not going to think about it for a bit.  Going to cram everything I can into what's left of the summer.

Starting with a trip to Winter Park where I got nice and dirty riding my bike.

They'd been inundated with rain so parts of the trail were way muddier than I've ever seen them.  But the wildflowers were out of hand, going crazy all over the place.  And yeah I know I have gnarly knees.  Those knees have seen a lot and have earned every scar and wrinkle.

Tipperary Creek Trail

Do I look ready for my race?
Wait, don't answer that.

Flume Trail

The Winter Park area has been hit hard by the pine beetle kill but this view was a shocker to me.

Just last year this part of the trail was dense, dark, shady forest, certainly there were no mountain views.  You can see the huge pile of dead trees and you can see the brown hillsides of dead trees in the photo above it.  It's been a dramatic and fairly catastrophic event to watch over the years, whole mountainsides turned to brown in the space of a few months.  On the plus side there were copious amounts of wildflowers springing up in the new 'meadows' or 'sunspots' I believe is the logger's euphemism for the space left behind after a clear cut.  Unfortunately the beetles have made their way to this side of the Continental Divide (Winter Park is on the other side) and just this past weekend I spotted some newly dead trees on the West Mag trails.  It's just a matter of time until we start seeing the same brown hillsides here.

In the end it was a 3 hour ride and I was tired but it was a great day on the trails.  The Tipperary Creek Trail is one of my favorites but it's a long way to Tipperary and these days I'm less willing to make the 1 3/4 hour trip when West Mag is 40-45 minutes away.  But it's nice to get out of town every once in a while for something other than a dog trial where I often don't get to see much other than the agility ring.

The day after my encounter with the bear I took Strum for a hike on the opposite end of the Mesa Trail.  There's still a good chance to run into bears and snakes and maybe a lion but I decided to risk it.

Because it's a nice trail and only 20 minutes away.

And Strummy can go off leash

Everything is so lush and green right now.  It's been a nice summer for moisture.

I kept him on leash a good bit of the time in places where bear/lion/snake encounters were more likely or in places where it would be problematic if I did run into something.  He doesn't stray far from me anyway so being off leash for him isn't all that big a deal but it's nice to be able to let him go when I'm hiking down the steep rocky bits so he doesn't pull me.

As it happens the trailhead is right next to the project I've been working on these past months.  They're nowhere near to starting construction on the house renovation which is the part I worked on but they're constructing the riding arena and had just put up 72' long trusses the other day.  I could see them from the trail but apparently they looked more impressive close up at the job site.  Even more impressive is how they got them up the narrow residential curvy dirt driveway/road to the site.  I can't even imagine how that worked.

In all the hike took around 2 1/4 hours, not sure how far that is distance wise but without a dog I can do it in around 1 hour 50 minutes.  It's amazing how much time his sniffing eats up.  But I was tired from the trail run the day before so I wasn't in a hurry anyway.  Sometimes it's good to kick back and smell the pee.


Last night I finally made it to my friend's house to practice some 'over the top' agility.  She's got a couple of high drive dogs so we took turns running our dogs in the hopes that we could proof for the excitement of a trial.  I'm not sure how helpful I was to her but this was excellent practice for Strummer and finally I was able to get the failed entries that I see in trials but not at the practice field when I go by myself.  There was quite a lot of failure actually but we worked through it.  Sometimes he almost seems to get some kind of loop in his head and he'll repeat the same thing incorrectly over and over.  I have this problem with the dog walk too.  Part of me thinks it's best to stop and give him a break when this happens but the other part thinks maybe it's better to keep working at it until he succeeds and then stop.  I went with the second option last night but I'm not sure that was the best decision.  I know I need to keep at it but sometimes I feel like I'm bashing my head against the wall and need to try something else.  But what else there is to try I don't know.  My friend thought at first that he wasn't collecting but after a while she could see that he was but that he was almost aiming for the second pole as if that's what he thought he was meant to do and I've often felt this as well.  She pointed out that I was being sloppy with my body positioning and that it would help him if I paused and let him get the entry before moving forward.  Sometimes this helped sometimes it didn't, I do this at trials with the same mixed results.  I had been proofing for motion out at the field so I wasn't too surprised.  It's SO nice to have a second set of experienced eyes when I'm practicing though.  I wish I could have returned the favor and been more helpful but it was all I could do to keep Strummer under some semblance of control when she ran her dogs.  Also she wanted me to tug with him and get him riled up next to the contact equipment so she could proof her contacts so I couldn't watch too closely but wow her dog stuck his 2 on/2 off even with Strum going nuts with his tug right next to him.  It's hard to proof for trials when your dog is that good in practice.

We're going try to practice some more, she lives about 7 minutes away so it's very handy for me and her agility yard is fantastic.  Beautiful lush grass with a gorgeous view of Boulder and the Flatirons below.  Over the top agility at the top of the world I call it.  Hopefully I can get his issue worked out by DOCNA Champs next month.

We've got at least one day of a DOCNA trial this weekend so we'll see if the practice helped.  I only signed up for Saturday but they're taking day of entries so I may go on Sunday too but with 3 days in a row of seminars next week I'm thinking maybe I should give us both a break.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Get your Cowboy on - UKI at the Larimer County Fair

The County Fair and agility, I'm not sure it gets much better.  I loved the County Fair as a kid and I still do.  I probably wouldn't take the time to go though if it wasn't for the agility trial.  Last year was USDAA but they gave the club such a hassle this year that the club decided oh forget it we'll just do UKI instead.  This was Colorado's first UKI trial and I was excited to try a new venue.  Unfortunately we were stuck in Beginners since UKI doesn't recognize DOCNA titles for grandfathering  but otherwise the venue has a lot of nice amenities including reasonable jump height cut-offs and lots of heights to choose from, 24" weaves (though we didn't have them for this trial because the club hadn't received their new set yet), displaceable tire which the club did have, no up contacts are judged-hooray for the big dogs!  The upper level courses were on the tight, twisty, technical side which a lot of the dogs didn't seem to care for.  Lots of frustration, 'you want me to go where?' barking going on.  The Beginners classes were fine though, similar to what you see in USDAA.  In a way I was glad we didn't have to do the harder courses but in another way I think we would have done better on them because it's more the sort of thing we practice in class with Joy.  Strum collects a lot better and keeps his head about him more when there are lots of turns.  It's when things are more wide open and he starts charging around that he loses his head and the bars come down.  Still I think too much of that technical stuff is demotivating for the dogs even if it is more interesting for the handlers.

Last time I had photos and no videos, this time I have video but no photos.  I thought I'd try a video montage this time and I have some great footage subject wise-pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, a wee kid leading a bull around, a chihuahua in a pink dress, a log rolling competition, a kick ass Bluegrass band playing a Cheap Trick cover (does it get any more County Fair than that?), 4-H girls in shorts, pony tails and stylish cowboy boots with their pigs and sheep, and a pig with the hiccups.  But unfortunately most of it sucks.  Too dark inside the livestock barns and it turns out my video talents lean towards the 'Blair Witch Project' and are more vomit inducing than the carnival rides.  But I pieced together a small bit of it and added it to my agility runs that a friend with better video skills taped.  I'm starting to wonder if the taping I do for people at trials comes out this badly.

Oh yeah, there was some agility too.  Strum had no Q's which should have been depressing but he was running so nicely and finally hit a weave pole entrance on a full set of weaves like he knew what he was doing.  I was SO happy over that since that was my main training goal for the trial.  I feel like he's finally starting to get it.  He got 2/2 of his dogwalks and 2/3 of his A-frames.  I'm a little doubtful over whether the miss was truly a miss but oh well.  He hasn't missed in A-frame in I can't remember when and I thought he'd got it but to be honest I wasn't watching all that closely.  The only thing I wasn't happy about was the amount of bars that came down.  One cost us a Jumpers Q and he had one down in Standard and Speed Stakes.  I think he kept them all up in Snakes and Ladders.  I've never had a bar knocker before and it's frustrating.  I don't think it's a jumping issue, I think it's mostly a handling issue and maybe a little bit of overexcitement.  It's the #1 reason for us to miss a Q though.  I haven't had a lesson in months, Joy's not teaching right now and nobody else teaches masters level classes in my area.  I've been so focused on the weaves that I've let the handling slip.  I signed up for a handling seminar and a jumping seminar with Daisy Peel in a couple of weeks so hopefully that'll get me back on track. 

Anyway, here's the video.  A little mistake here and there with the knocked bars, a horribly executed rear cross, and it wouldn't be the Larimer County Fair if I didn't get lost on a Jumpers run but otherwise nothing too terrible.  I'm rocking a pretty good crazy dog lady look with my new hat which predictably falls off during the last run and distracts me enough to cause Strum to miss a jump.  I know sunglasses are bad because you can't make eye contact with your dog but I think I need to go back to them because I have yet to find a hat that stays on.  You can click on the link of the video title for a bigger view.

Strummer's runs
UKI at the Larimer County Fair from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I put a little bit of the Bluegrass band, The Blue Canyon Boys, at the start of the agility tape but I also thought I'd put all the footage I had in their own video.  Unfortunately I came into earshot of them at the end of their last song, a cover of Cheap Trick's 'I Want You to Want Me'.  This literally sent me running to the stage but still I was only able to catch the end.  I have to confess, a stand-up bass sends my heart to pitter pat.  Again, the video footage is a bit dizzy making in places, I was finding it hard to stand still.  These guys were great, I was so disappointed that I only caught the a couple of minutes.  The other tragic thing is that it was like me and an old guy in a lawn chair watching them.  How did nobody else see how great they were and come over?  Oh well.  I see they're playing an outdoor concert in the park in Lyons which is only a 15-20 minute drive but it's on a Thursday night and I'll probably be too tired but we'll see.

Blue Canyon Boys-'I Want You to Want Me'
Blue Canyon Boys-'I Want You to Want Me' from colliebrains on Vimeo.

The only downside to the day at the fair is the parasites, and I don't mean the slumming Boulder trust funders.  Last year the dogs came back with a suspected case of lice sending me into a minor panic.  Of course I notice Strummer scratching as soon as he gets in the door then Lola starts up on cue then my head starts to itch.  Then last night I dreamt my arms were covered in 3 layers of parasites, each layer a bigger bug that had come to eat the bug in the layer below.  I've been up since around 4 am after waking up screaming from that nightmare.  Probably shouldn't be reading Stephen King's 'It' before bedtime.