Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blair Witch Agility

Pikes Peak overlooking our extremely fashionable Colorado Agility community

Yesterday we ventured into the hinterlands of Black Forest Regional Park for a day of hopefully not embarrassing ourselves too badly in the agility ring (USDAA).    Work and a sprained ankle conspired to keep me from the practice field for all but one practice session in an entire month so I wasn't sure what I was going to get out there and of course the debacle with my knee but in the end it turned out to be a pretty good day and my knee was magically o.k. after all that drama.  Strum ended up with 3/4 Q's and 1st places in all his classes.  His only mistakes for the whole day were a knocked bar in Standard (our only NQ) and missed weave entries in Gamblers and Standard.  On the one hand I was disappointed though not surprised on the other hand he was getting the entries much more quickly than he has been on subsequent tries (got them on the second try in Standard) and is staying in for the whole set of poles so it's progress I guess.  I think it's because he was having a calm day overall for once in his life.  Since I'm bored with Starters and Strum already had Q's in Snooker and Gamblers I designed some unnecessarily challenging courses for him and he did such a nice job, what a good boy, he's so much fun to run when he has his head about him.  My handling felt better too, had only 1 handling glitch that caused a refusal in Jumpers but it wasn't faulted at the Advanced level.  Otherwise it was a crazy fast, is it over already? Jumpers run.  Nice smooth Standard run other than the weave entry and knocked bar.  Did 4 reds in Snooker even though we didn't have to so I could take advantage of as much ring time as possible.  Was kind of tricky for Starters and it wasn't pretty but we made it all the way through with two 7's.  Gamblers was nice & smooth except for the missed weave entry which ended up costing us lost time/points.

In total:
P1 Gamblers-Q (1st place)
P1 Snooker-Q (1st place)
P1 Standard-NQ (1st place)
P2 Jumpers-Q (1st place) (first run in P2)

Completed P1 Gamblers title

100% on all contacts, 1 knocked bar, 2/2 missed weave entries, 1 refusal caused by poor handling.

Say it Loud, Say it Proud

I don't want to be a prisoner

I'm listing the stats because my record keeping these days is appalling.  I remember when I was starting out with Cody and each hard fought Q was lovingly recorded.  I couldn't understand those masters people who not only lost track of Q's but earned titles and didn't even realize it.  Of course that was me by the time Cody was in masters.  Once I didn't have to keep track in order to know if I could move up I lost interest in much of the title stuff.  I knew what I needed for the big champ. titles but that was about it.  Now I'm not even keeping good track of Strummer and I should because I need to know when to move up.  Turns out Strum had earned his starters Jumpers title back in April and I almost sent the entry in for this trial with him entered in starters.  I think in USDAA a rep will come to your house and flog you if you don't move up.  No sandbagging in USDAA.  Anyway I checked the blog and realized I don't typically report results in an organized, useful way so I'm going to try to do better for my own reference.  Of course I could write everything down in the nice fancy pants record keeping book I bought for Strummer but that would be boring.  More exciting to scramble through the blog the night before entries are due.  Also DOCNA keeps track of all my Q's/titles online for free so I've been less motivated to do it myself.  Every once in a while I copy/paste the results to a word doc but that's as fancy as I get these days.

In only have video of Strum's Standard run.  Couldn't be bothered to hassle people to film the others.  Kind of tedious to watch other people's games runs anyway and by the time I ran my Jumpers run at 6:30 I was too tired to bother with video.  The trial ran late and I left before my Pairs run.  I don't like Pairs all that much anyway and the only reason I signed up was because it was supposed to run in the middle of the day and I didn't want to sit around with nothing to do.  But they changed the running order so it ran last so I left.  As it was I left at 6:50 and they were starting with Starters Jumpers so could be they were running Starters Pairs in the near dark.  I was too tired to wait around and a storm front was blowing in.  As I packed up the car I watched an EZ up make run for it in the wind and by the time I hit the highway it was a full blown storm so I wonder if they even got to Starters Pairs in the end.  Each class took around 3 hours to run all the levels so it was a long day.

Starters Standard
USDAA June 2010 Strummer Standard from colliebrains on Vimeo.

That wasn't how I walked it, I was hoping for a front cross before the A-frame but it didn't quite happen and I think the last minute rear cross caused the knocked bar.  It looks cute but I wasn't thrilled with the way he flung himself up out of the chute.  It was wet from the rain and I'm hoping that's the only reason and he's not going to start doing that all the time.  Went through that with Lola, what a pain.

The venue is a great place, a spooky forest out on the plains where you might run into the Blair Witch and hopefully she won't hex your agility runs.


There are lot of nice hiking trails through the woods around the park and we had a bit of a hike in between classes and working but it started to rain and more importantly thunder so I decided to head us back to the park. 

We had all sorts of weather-cloudy overcast then sun then rain the sun then rain, etc.  It was hot & sweaty sunscreen weather when I started scribing the masters Standard class and by midway through the 22" class I was pining for my sweatshirt and rain coat and sporting goose bumps.  Brought plenty of clothes with me to scribe the Jumpers class because it was cloudy and threatening then never needed them.  Walked my Standard run in the rain, ran it in full sun.  I think it was the Blair Witch messing with us.  Still it was better than the 92 degrees they were predicting the night before.

Had a great time yesterday but was happy to have only entered one day.  I think I would have been in tears if I'd had to wake up this morning and drive back there for more.  Yesterday was the perfect amount of agility and today I went up to West Mag for a bike ride and lunch with Jonny and some friends.  I was tired but it was so beautiful on the trail  I soon forgot about the burning in my quads.  And no crashes which is always good.  Strummer is going to be in starters Standard forever in USDAA but oh well, that ride today was totally worth it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heckuva week

In short, woke up Sat. morning to an unstable knee, probably the partially torn meniscus has flipped over, happens sometimes for no apparent reason but hasn't happened for ages, maybe more than a year.  Limping around, can barely walk dogs but manage a bike ride on Sunday. 

Take Lola in for her chiropractor appointment on Monday, doc sees my knee brace and wants to know why so I tell him my tale of woe.  He's also a people chiropractor too and a few jerks and pulls on my leg and voila I can walk again.  Amazing.  And he doesn't even charge me.  I can hardly believe any of it.  Wake up Tuesday morning and my knee is perfect.

Go for a bike ride last night with some friends on a trail that's not very hard, ridden it a zillion times with no problem.  Friend of a friend of Jonny's-a 70 year old mountain biker that's visiting from England-rode the trail over the weekend, went over the handlebars, landed in a pile of unconscious and blood and just had serious neck surgery to fuse his vertebrae together or something.  Going to get sent back to England in a Lear jet with a medical team on board because he's so unstable.  He has really really good insurance.  Anyway, he crashed on a part of the trail that I'm not even riding last night but somehow before I knew this I'd convinced myself he'd crashed on a part of the trail I was riding.  So coming down it I'm freaking myself out and telling myself don't be an idiot, worrying about crashing will surely make you crash.  I finally stop worrying and then I crash, about 2 minutes from the trail head at the end of the ride.  I was trying to scramble out of the way to avoid some women coming uphill while coming around a turn and my wheels skidded out from under me.  Not a serious crash by any means, just a stupid slip on some loose dry trail but of course I land on my right knee right on the part that's always sore where the meniscus is screwed up.  Huge swelling bleeding welt on my knee and it hurts to walk and I've somehow also managed to hurt my left pinkie/palm.  Nothing broken but it hurts to move it.  I don't tell my friends, I'm too embarrassed at my idiocy.

Strummer has forgotten how to weave then sort of remembered, we'll see how he does at the trial this weekend.  I hate being unprepared, have only practiced at the field once since the trial last Memorial Day.

And to top it all off I killed a baby prairie dog on my way home from the Rez this morning.  Sucks Sucks Sucks!  There was an oncoming car so I couldn't swerve to avoid him and as an added gruesome bonus that car also killed the baby prairie dog on his side of the road.  I see them both squished in my rear view mirror and my stomach turns over a million times.  I guess the carrion eating birds will have a nice breakfast.

Lots of ice and compression in my future and we'll see if I can run that crazy dog on Saturday.  Swimming helped my leg somehow, I hobbled down to the beach barely able to put weight on it and walked back up the hill to my car without even thinking about it.  If I can't run by Saturday I may enter a swimming race at the Rez that my masters group is sponsoring.  Or maybe hide in the house with all the blinds drawn and my feet up and hope that nothing else happens.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Is there anything cuter than a 3 1/2 week old puppy?

Why yes there is and that would be four 3 1/2 week old puppies.  I decided to take a much needed day off and went up to Nederland for some mountain biking on the West Mag trails.  This time we avoided the new and not so improved Root Canal trail and I was a much happier camper.  Made it down to the Shoshone meadows and they were bashing away with wildflowers-quite spectacular.  Anyway on the way home we stopped at Joy's for a visit and puppy snuggling session.  Her Sheltie had puppies about 3 1/2 weeks ago and they're now the most adorable little sausage rolls.  They're so soft and and calm and no sharp puppy teeth yet.  They stumbled around the kitchen floor for a bit like Strummer when he was drunk and eventually decided they'd had enough and went back to sleep, one of them curled up on my legs.  Two of them fell sound asleep with their heads hanging off the dog bed and mom curled up behind and also napping.  It was so perfect and there's me without my camera.  Oh well, some moments are meant to be enjoyed right there in the moment.

Somehow we got on the topic of Joy's yard and how the pocket gophers were destroying it and I had no clue what a pocket gopher was but I figured that this sounded like a job for Lola so I offered up her services.  Unfortunately pocket gophers only come out at night.  Another problem is that this is what it turns out a pocket gopher looks like:

The exact opposite of a 3 1/2 week old puppy in my opinion.  The 'Hannibal Lecter meets Freddie Krueger' of the varmint world.  How is it that nobody's done a horror movie featuring these things?  And how is it that something that sounds so cute looks so hideous?  It's a good thing I didn't know that that's what they look like while I was walking around on top of their tunnels with nothing but a thin layer of dirt and the soles of my sports sandals between my feet and those chompers of doom.  It gives me the heebies just thinking about it.  No way I'm letting Lola near one of those things.  I think she'd finally meet her match in the rodent world.

Anyway it was wonderful to have a day off and spend it up in the mountains.  Where there are no Russian Olive trees.  My neighborhood is full of Russian Olive trees and the sickly sweet cloying smell is making me nauseous.  Their smell is especially strong this year, don't know why, but it's the first year I've noticed it and it's overpowering.  I'm surprised that I haven't had a severe allergy attack, it seems like I'm right on the verge of it but then no, just nausea, no itching and maybe one sneeze or almost sneeze.  They're considered a noxious and invasive species and it's illegal to plant them in Boulder.  For a while Boulder County was offering free trees from a nursery for every 24" diameter of Russian Olive tree that you cut down on your property.  Not sure if the program is still going but heck I'm ready to borrow my friend's chain saw and start a Texas Chainsaw Olive Russian Tree Massacre in my neighborhood.  The Open Space trail where I walk most days is also full of them.  I noticed them for the first time today and was amazed at how many there are.  I don't know, maybe we can get the pocket gophers on the case, those chompers look like they could take down a whole forest.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friday please

I start out this very long day at 6:30 a.m. with an interesting swim in the Rez and finish it up finally at 9:15 p.m.  It's blowy when I wake up this morning and I have this rule of no swimming in white caps because I'm a wimp.  It turns out the water is a bit choppy but no whitecaps so it's a go.  Oddly enough I have no trouble swimming a straight line, I have to sight more than normal but no big deal.  Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there having issues and I get cut off by people swimming right in front on me several times.  I don't think they even see me.  Some of them are outright scary.  Lots of people stopping to tread water too, not sure what that's about.  One person cuts me off then stops to tread water right on front of me.  Gotta love those Boulderites living in their own Private Idaho.  Knock off the first 1000 yard loop no problem and decide to go for round 2 despite better judgement.  Here's the thing about the no whitecaps rule, it's a good rule but there's not much you can do about it if you're in the middle of the lake and the winds start gusting stronger than they were when you started and suddenly there are whitecaps.  And waves.  Smacking you in the face because you can only breathe competently to one side despite years of practice and of course the waves are coming at you on the breathing side.  And the crazy lady from above that cut me off and stopped to tread water is swimming near me right about the time the winds kick up.  She drifts way off to sea away from me, well off course from the buoy and I'm somewhat relieved only to have her appear from nowhere a few minutes later to cut me off again.  I decide screw the buoy and head for shore on a more direct route.  I figure crazy lady will follow but as soon as she realizes she's off course she swims away back to the buoy and directly into the chop.  Talk about crazy OCD triathlete.  I get to shore, take of my wetsuit, head up to the parking lot and as I'm getting into my car I see her out there still thrashing around.

I wasn't happy while I was out there in the whitecaps but I didn't panic and it's good to know I can do it if I have to.  But let's hope I don't have to.  Ever again.

I sit down to work this morning and figure hell my day can't possibly get any worse than what I've already been through.  But I'm wrong.  Bring on the weekend please.  I'm going to take at least part of it off for sure.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You gotta laugh

Because really what else can you do except watch your head explode?  There's some profanity in this (and some bad words ; )  ) so maybe you don't want to watch it at work.

Didn't Margaret Thatcher privatize BP back in the 80's or thereabouts?  In any case it's been a pretty evil company for a long time before the oil spill.  Maybe we can plug the leak with Thatcher.  And throw Sarah Palin down there for good measure.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The saga of Lola and some 'gility with da boyz

El Oh El A

I've not written a whole lot about Lola's knee problems.  In short she likely has a small. partial tear of her CCL's in both knees though the right knee is worse.  She also has some stuff up with her back.  I took her to the chiropractor because her hips/pelvis were way out of whack and this can screw up the knee even worse.  Hmm, sounds familiar.  Lo and I have chiropractor appointments on the same day next week.  Old ladies and their hips and knees, we can kvetch to each other over coffee and fish treats.  Actually I'm usually the only one kvetching, she's a good sport about the whole thing.  Anyway, I'm trying to avoid surgery for her so for now it's 2 months of leash walks only, no running around though she can go running on leash with me, and laser treatments on her knees.  I've got a laundry list of stretches and exercises too and some stuff on maggot ball, none of which I've had time to do very much of.  She hasn't limped at all so far and she seems fine but the x-rays showed otherwise so I'm going to stick to her regime and hopefully we can avoid surgery.  Her P.T. has a few other clients also taking conservative approaches with this injury so it'll be interesting to see if any of us are successful.  The chiropractor doesn't even think she has a tear and snorted at the notion that she needs surgery.  'If only you knew how many times I've heard that', is what he told me about the surgery.  Let's hope he's right.

Either way this could spell the end of Lola's agility career.  If she ends up needing surgery there's no way I'm returning her to agility.  She's 9 1/2 right now and I was thinking DOCNA Champs this September would be her last hurrah and maybe we'd even pick up her MEX right before Champs, she's pretty close.  But I don't care about any of that if she's even slightly injured.  Even if the tears do manage to somehow heal I'm not sure I want to risk her injuring herself again.  I want her golden years to be happy and active and maybe the risks of agility simply aren't worth it.

Strum was limping last week too which was very nearly the straw that broke the camel's back of my sanity.  Jonny saw him limp for a step on Tuesday, checked his feet to make sure it wasn't a thorn or something and though there wasn't anything he stopped the limping when they started walking again.  Strum did the same thing for me on Thursday except it was 3 steps of limping before I checked his feet.  I thought about taking him to the ortho vet on Friday when I took Lola in for her laser treatment but I thought if I did that I might very well have a nervous breakdown.  So I'm waiting to see if he limps some more before I go into panic mode with him. 

I took him out to the agility field tonight for the first time since the trial at the end of May and he was fine.  I worked on some more weave pole training, this time with them in the middle of a fast sequence.  I had a turn after the dogwalk to a straight tunnel and then the weaves with a slight offside entry at a decent distance from the tunnel so we could also practice dogwalk turns.  There was a jump close after the dogwalk as a trap and he fell for it the first time through but none of the others.  Out of 5-6 dogwalks he had one miss on the turn.  His weaves were perfect though, hit every entry, didn't pop out, let me rear cross at the entry, front cross at the exit.  The first rep he came barreling out of that tunnel so fast and I was well behind him, I thought there was no way he could hit that entry even if he wanted to but somehow at the last second he did it, I could hardly believe my eyes.  I wasn't even sure he saw the poles.  I'm starting to feel confident that he's close to being able to get them in a trial.  We have one day of USDAA in a couple of weeks so we'll see where we are.  Not sure how much time I'll have to practice but it is what it is.

Guess who else got to come along and play?

Those pesky whippersnappers.  I'll show them how it's done.
Actually what he mostly did was eat rabbit poop and pee on the tall weeds at the outskirts of the field.  But I had him do a few tunnels while Strummer had to stay so we could work on Strum's self control around agility.  I even set up a little jump-jump-table sequence with the jumps at 8" so he could play at running a bit and I could get a distraction for Strummer that involved me running away from him.  Strum was perfect, such a good boy.  He's come such a long way with his self control.

I'm pleased with how things are shaping up in practice with proofing and distractions, now to see if we can get it to transfer to the ring.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Here is where I draw the line

You have perhaps seen this recipe for, ummm, I don't know, sardine/raw egg/graham cracker treats?  I'll admit this whole dog thing has sucked me into a strange and often disturbing world, places I never thought I would go but I think I would have to draw the line at sardines in my blender.  With raw eggs.  And graham crackers.  That blender would have to become my 'Sardine Blender'.  Ditto for the cookie sheet.  There is not enough hot soapy water to clean up that concoction from the depths of hell.  Never mind what the house smells like after that mess has been baking in the oven.  I remember the one time I put the backpack containing Lola's sardines in front of the heater in the car on the way to a trial and I'm telling you I still can't get that smell out of my brain.  It haunts me in my nightmares.  I think I would have to move after making those treats.  And good luck selling the house.  This is why we have fancy dog boutique bakeries and commercially prepared dog treats, so we can have tasty stinky dog treats and still have guests in our house.  I'm all about frugality but this is what I call a false economy.

Maybe Dan Aykroyd should be marketing to the dog people:

Monday, June 07, 2010

West Mag

Some photos from my first ride of the season in the mountains a week ago.  I had to work this past weekend and likely will have to work at least the next 2 weekends but I'm going to have to sneak in a half day off somewhere.  Hard to pass up the opportunity to work though since who knows when it'll arise again.

Some views of the Continental Divide.

Aspens are still to get their leaves.

They re-routed, or rather re-rooted as the sign said, a trail called the Root Canal trail because apparently it was going over private property and unfortunately 'they' are a sadistic group because the trail is now an annoying tight twisty pain in the ass excursion with lots of traps and off course opportunities and no chance of ever getting up any speed at risk of falling victim to the aforementioned off courses and getting whistled out of the ring (ie a ride on the Flight for Life helicopter).  My legs were tired from the 2 days of being on my feet at the agility trial and I was tired from the traveling and not sleeping well in the hotel so I was cranky for the first half hour or so until we finally got off the Root Canal trail and onto more familiar ground and my brain relaxed and heaved a sigh of relief.  Like going from AKC to DOCNA I imagine.  Anyway, it was still a beautiful ride in the mountains despite the rocky start.  Hopefully I'll be able to sneak away for a ride at some point in the next 2 weeks.

No agility practice, poor dogs are having to survive on leash walks and my own triathlon training is being neglected.  Had to skip a fun match this past weekend that would have been a helpful opportunity for working on weave pole issues but oh well.  I signed up for the off-road triathlon in Lory State Park again at the end of August and I'm hoping it won't be a disaster since training has been sparse these past few weeks.  Again, keeping the lights on more of a priority at the moment.  Hopefully at some point I'll have a summer but for now must get back to the grind.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Paws for Friendship DOCNA Trial

That photo about sums him up. (Stover Photography)

A fun, relaxing and far less eventful DOCNA trial this past weekend in Peyton, CO which is also far far away out on the plains where the deer and the antelope play and I even saw a herd of antelope both mornings on my drive to the trial site.  I stayed at a hotel for the first time in eons and it was not such a happy experience but I'll save you the whining.  In short I forgot to ask not to be placed next to the pool.  Strum was such a good boy though, not a peep out of him despite the screaming and banging going on just outside the door.  I stayed in Colorado Springs about 1/2 an hour from the trial site and not too far from Garden of the Gods but I was too tired to go and I had just gone last October after a USDAA trial.  Never posted the photos, I'll get around to it eventually.

As per usual a celebrity died while I was out of town.  R.I.P. Dennis Hopper.  I loved Blue Velvet, one of my favorite movies.  The man sure knew how to do 'psycho'.

Rubberized equipment is the best, I wish every club would do it.  Strum had no problem with the slatless equipment since the traction was so good.  Was talking to someone whose dog does have trouble with sliding on NADAC's slatless rubber skins but had no problems with the slatless and granules/coating.  So nice for the dogs and Strummer was much calmer waiting his turn because there was no noise of doggie nails on sanded contacts.

Not a fantastic weekend Q-wise but we did make some good progress with the weave poles.  Had one melt down at the start of the weekend (edited it out of the video to spare you all having to watch that) but by the second day he was finally starting to get his entries.  I'll need to see it in a lot more trials before I believe he truly understands but it was a good feeling to see him finally start to get it.  Unfortunately not too many trials for us this summer.  I could go to USDAA at the end of  June but there's nothing in July.  Thought about registering him with AKC but my stomach turns over and over and over at the thought of giving them my money so I don't think that's a reasonable option for us.  We'll continue with our proofing and hope he remembers until August.

I'm coining a special handling move called the 'Fally On My Assy' move.  Maybe I'll develop my own handling system around it.  It's a crowd pleaser but not so good for agility handling.  It would be nice to get through at least one trial without garnering video for my blooper reel.

Had 3 five fault Standard Runs, that was fun, and a dropped bar in both Jumpers runs, super fun.  Too many bars came down on Sunday, maybe the crazy wee man was finally getting tired.  12 runs is a lot, even for crazy Strummer man though he was completely off his head first thing Sunday morning probably due to the nice 'cool enough for fleece' weather.  He was 10/10 on his A-frames, 6/10 I think on his dogwalks which was not so fabulous.  Most of the misses were when I was too far behind.  Shouldn't matter in theory but it does matter in practice so we need more proofing there too.  Teeter was much better this weekend despite the above photo but I had to babysit him too much and got too far behind at least once causing some bungled handling of a serpentine.  Most of my handling errors this weekend were due to being too far behind because of worries over obstacle performance, mostly the teeter and turns from a tunnel onto the dogwalk or A-frame.  More shtuff to work on I suppose.

We did manage Q's and first places in Trigility (relay) and 2 rounds of Snakes and Ladders and a 10 fault Q and 3rd place in the North American Challenge (like USDAA's Grand Prix).  I didn't know anybody on our Trigility team and we were paired with 2 fast wee dogs who did a great job so we had a good result despite Strum's dropped bar.  I don't typically enter Trigility and Snakes and Ladders but they turned out to be good practice and you need only one Q for your title and to move up a level.

Here's the video.  I turned up the music and turned down the trial noises so you don't have to hear me yelling 'Awesome!!!' then my videographer yelling 'Awesome!!!' back and forth a million times every time Strummer gets a weave entry.  We were giving each other moral support with our various training issues over the weekend.  Instead you can enjoy a nice punk rock version of 'Mandy'.  Maybe you'd rather hear all the 'Awesomes!'?

You can click on the link for a bigger viewer.

Saturday-2 rounds of Standard and Snakes & Ladders
DOCNA MAY 29, 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Sunday-Trigility, North American Challenge, 2 rounds of Standard

DOCNA MAY 30, 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Sneaked in a quick bike ride up in the mountains yesterday before going to a friend's barbecue.  First ride of the season on the West Mag trails, so nice to be back on the mountain trails.  Might write more about it later.