Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Inspiration and 100% running dogwalk contacts

A little inspiration for everyone trialing this weekend.  Heck even if you're not trialing this weekend.

You get that song in your head while you're waiting at the gate and then standing on that start line and you can't help but have the most awesomest of runs.  That's my plan for this weekend anyway.  We're only in 2 classes per day of a USDAA trial because I didn't want to enter classes with dogwalks but one of those classes is Steeplechase and we're going to have the most awesome fast smooth clean run.  Because I said so.  And because we've been practicing our butts off.

In even better news Strum finally had a 100% dogwalk practice.  Oh joyous rapture of 100% dogwalk contacts.  I nearly broke down weeping from the joy of it.  Set-up was dogwalk-jump-treat gizmo then after a few reps I added a jump before the dogwalk.  I went back to the treat gizmo so I could be sure I was judging the contacts properly but I'm intrigued by the 2 toy method and I'll be going back to that.  I'll probably alternate back and forth between them to keep us both on our toes.


5/5 (100%)-full dogwalks

50's, breezy, morning

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I added a loop around the Boulder Rez to my regular mountain bike route.

Still plenty of snow on the Continental Divide

But down here, not so much.  You can see how low that reservoir is (Left Hand Trail)

Here's a photo from 5 weeks ago taken from roughly the same spot.

There were some sundogs today, hard to photograph without frying your retinas but I got a couple of interesting shots.

Six more weeks and I'll be able to swim here again.  Can't wait, I'm weary of the confining walls of the pool and the chlorine eating my skin and hair and lungs to bits.

So many bluebirds out today, it was freaky.  I should get over there without my bike and with my telephoto lens.  I just need a few more hours in the day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Some handling and dogwalk practice today and it all felt kind of flat.  Struggling with some lateral sends for handling practice then a dogwalk practice that felt much like Friday's.  I was struggling with the toy throwing again though finally started getting the hang of it by the end.  I was extremely tired yesterday and maybe still dragging a bit today.  Not sure why I should be so tired after sitting on my butt in a class all weekend but for some reason I am.  Could also be the training catching up with me.


Set-up was jump-dogwalk-jump.  Cool morning, sunny, 30's.

6/10 (60%) all reps.

3/5 (60%) for full dogwalks

3/5 (60%) for backchained dogwalks

Rewarded most if not all of the misses, ugh.

I may have to go back to the treat gizmo if I can't get my mechanics down with the toys in a hurry.  Rewarding the misses is NOT good.  I did lower the jump to 12" to make it easier to throw the toy.  I think I'll go back to the yellow chicken toy, it's easier for me to throw and moves through the air more quickly so if I mess up and throw it a little late it's not as bad a thing.  My aim was so bad with the Kong rope toy that for more than half the reps he didn't even make it over the jump because the toy went sailing elsewhere.

One fantastic thing about practice was that Strummer never ran over to join my training partner and her super fast dog who were also working on contacts while we played on the dogwalk.  There was lots of noise and barking and excitement coming from their end of the field and I was still able to leave him in a sit-stay and lead out on the dogwalk.  At times he was straining to go over there but he kept his stay on his own and was happy to play with me instead.  Such a huge breakthrough for the Strum man.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Week in Training

I've started power hiking as part of my training on the recommendation of my chiropractor/p.t.  Power hiking is just what it sounds like.  Pretend you're going to run up the hill but take it down a notch so you're not quite running and that's power hiking.  My assignment was to go up the steepest hills I could find for 30 minutes of 4 mins. power hiking/1 min. regular hiking.  It's a hard, heart pounding workout that's for sure.  If you want to know what it feels like put 'Here Comes Your Man' by The Pixies on your mp3 player, find a nearly vertical hill and try to power hike up it while keeping time with the music.  Swing your arms a lot and try not to puke are my tips for you.  You'll be ready for that running dogwalk in no time.

A lower volume week than I was hoping for due to weather and a class over the weekend.  I was trying to make up for my class but had to skip a bike ride due to weather.  Oh well.  It's going to be a recurring issue between classes and trials on weekends so I may need to do the unthinkable and break out the bike trainer if the weather gets me again during the week.


Swim:  2200 yards/1 hour (mid-day masters, Amy coach)

Power Hike:  1.4 mile (approx.)/30 mins. of 4 mins. power hike/1 min. (Hogback loop)

Hike:  1 mile/30 mins. (Foothills trail and part of Hogback loop)

123.7 lbs


Agility:  running dogwalk practice in the a.m.

Rest day, gale force winds in the afternoon/evening

Walk:  1 mile cool down walk w/ Strummer


Agility:  light handling practice at Biscuit Eaters on our own

Swim:  2100 yards/1 hour (mid-day masters, Tiffany coach)
           Tiffany's last day coaching, sniff sniff, she's moving to Mesa, AZ so if any swimmers out
           there are from Mesa go check out her master's workouts, she's an awesome coach

Power Hike:  1.2 miles/30 mins. of 4 mins. hike/1 min. walk (Skunk Canyon out and back) with

Hike:  2.8 miles/45 mins. or so (Enchanted Mesa to Skunk Canyon, took a small off course of the
          way back)

Walk:  1 mile/20 mins. cool down walk w/ Strummer

122.8 lbs


Agility:  Running dogwalk practice

Run:  2 miles/30 mins. of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk (Wonderland Lake)

Walk:  3 miles or so/1 hour w/ Cody and cool down walk w/ Strummer and warm-up/cool down
          for Wonderland run


Agility:  Running dogwalk practice

Mountain Biking:  10.6 miles/1 hour, 53 mins. (Marshall Mesa/High Plains/Flatirons Vista/Doudy
                           Draw/Springbrook Loop/Community Ditch/Coal Seam)

Walk:  2.2 miles or so/1 hour w/ Cody and cool down walk w/ Strummer


Run:  2 miles/30 mins. of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk (bike path in Westminster)

Walk:  .72 mile/16 mins.


Rest day


Swim:  4300 yards/2 hours

Mountain Bike:  10.6 miles/1 hour, 53 minutes

Run:  4 miles/1 hour of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk

Power Hike:  4.2 miles (approx.)/1 hour of 4 mins. power hike/1 min.

Total Training Hours:  5 hours, 53 minutes

Walk:  7.9 miles/3 hours (approx.)

Hike:  3.8 miles/1 hour, 15 mins.

123.5 lbs. (-.2 lbs.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Was a gloomy day on the trails yesterday but still any day on the trails is a great day.

You can see how dry it is, there are several wildfires burning at the moment but thanks to yesterday's cooler weather and calmish winds they're mostly under control.  Normally March is our snowiest month but so far we've had only a 1/2 inch dusting and I can't remember the last time it rained.

Unfortunately it was my only ride for the week, lots of wind and weird storm fronts blowing through conspired to keep me off the bike this week.  Though I suppose I can hardly complain about being on trails in March.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Throw like a girl

Today I started with a jump at the end of the dogwalk.  The original plan was to wait until I had a higher success rate without it but I wanted to see how the mechanics of throwing a toy over the jump were going to work.  I also used a Kong at the end of a rope for the low value toy in hopes I would be able to throw it better.  I still used his red chicken for the high value toy.  The conclusion of this little experiment is that I'm not so very good with the throwing, not a surprise to me and the main reason I don't typically train with thrown toys but I'm hoping with some practice I can get better.  I found it a near impossible challenge to run to the end of the dogwalk, throw the first toy accurately over the jump, watch the contact zone then remember to throw the second toy only if successful.  It was kind of a comedy routine, or maybe a tragedy depending on how you want to look at it.  For one rep. I forgot to throw the first toy entirely and I got a terrible leap as Strum was looking at me and the toy instead of ahead.  I ended up having to lead out to the downramp in order to pull it all off and for a few reps. the little stinker ran straight to me and the toy rather than taking the dogwalk.  I had to keep my eye on him until he was committed to the walk which added another challenge to the equation.


Cool morning, mid-30's, sunny, calm

6/10 (60%) hits, all full dogwalks (no backchaining)

20" Jump after the dogwalk for some reps. but not for others.  I rotated the jump in and out as I tried to get comfortable with the toy throwing.  First few reps. had a jump after the dogwalk.

Lots of weirdness with his gait though the latter reps. were getting better.  More jumping off the dogwalk than I normally see which was my worry with using toys but this could be more due to my atrocious throwing.  I was trying to throw farther this time as well.  I'm going to keep up with it next week, we'll see how it goes.  Strum gets the whole weekend off because I have a class but I think I should get in some throwing practice in the yard before I leave for class in the morning.  Because my neighbors don't already think I'm weird enough.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I tried something new with the the dogwalk today thanks to a suggestion from a reader who actually trains with Silvia.  Rather than use the treat gizmo I took 2 toys, one that's Strum's absolute favorite and another that he likes but not nearly as much.  I've been reluctant, nay chicken, to use toys in the past because for one he slams to a stop when he chases toys and finally gets them and also because I was concerned that he'd extend his stride even more if he had a toy to chase vs the stationary treat dispenser.  But I love to experiment and thinking about it Strum probably slams to a halt even worse at the treat gizmo so I decided to give it a try.  The method is to throw the first, lower value toy while he's on the walk then if he gets a hit throw the second higher value toy.  The results were pretty good overall, much better than I was expecting and my throwing/timing was also better than expected though could use improvement.

The biggest improvement was that he added the extra stride for every rep. and didn't have any of the big obvious misses that he's been having recently.  But now we're back to the less obvious misses and sure enough I rewarded 2 misses.  One of them I suspected was a miss right after I rewarded it.  The other was so close I had to spot it on the slow motion video.  Both were fairly close hits, hard to see, but I could sense that one was a leap right after the fact.

The first 2 reps were backchained so I could get my timing down with throwing the toys.  The rest were all full dogwalks.  A few times he didn't get on the dogwalk and went straight for his chicken and while I wasn't thrilled about that it's interesting to have footage of him running on the flat.  I put a short bit of it at the end.


Cool sunny morning, about 29-30 degrees

4/6 (67%) hits

2/4 (50%) hits were full dogwalks

2/6 (33%) misses were rewarded

Both misses were close

I'm happy enough with today's results.  I did make it easier by leading out and not having so much motion on my part.  I'll continue this set up tomorrow and if we can get 80% then I'll start adding motion back in.  So glad I didn't enter Strum in any Standard runs at his next trial in a week, I want this all worked out before I ask him to do it in the ring.  Next trial after that will be in May so hopefully I'll have everything near perfect by then, or at least back to where we were.

Dog training via ukulele

I totally want to learn how to play the ukulele.  It's kind of far down on my 'to do' list but I'm thinking maybe I should bump it up now that I see it has some dog training potential.  Well, except that Strummer would try to eat the ukulele but we can work on that.  Anyway, this woman has some awesome ukulele dog training videos.

She's got one for sound sensitivity

And one for aggression.

I love 'Raising Hope', best show on t.v. these days next to 30 Rock.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Experiments in reinforcement

Strum's dogwalk isn't getting consistently better so I decided to play around with his reinforcements.  He doesn't seem to care if he misses and in fact I'm convinced that after all this time he's still not clear on what's expected of him.  So in order to try to make things clearer for him and give him some motivation to try to figure things out I'm making his reward vs no reward more obvious.  If he gets a hit he gets treats from the treat gizmo and I come over and give him even better treats from my pocket then I break out his special squeaky chicken that makes him mad with joy and I play with him for a bit.  If he misses I mark it with a verbal 'no' as I've been doing all along and I go sit down on the sidelines for 20-30 seconds.  This does cause him a small amount of stress, probably because he doesn't know what's going on and uncertainty is a stressor for him.  He had a lot of lip licking going on and trotting around as a displacement behavior.  I mostly ignored him while I sat, I did have some eye contact mostly because I wanted to see how he was responding.  I'm not a fan of this type of thing and the original suggestion from the running contact seminar I went to was to take him by the collar and lead him back to the start of the dogwalk when he misses.  I did this at the seminar and it took a lot of reps. for him to finally get a hit.  I don't have it in me right now to try that in practice at home.  It'll suck the fun right out of practice for the both of us and that's not what agility is supposed to be about.  It may be bad dog training but a running dogwalk is not a necessary life skill and as such I'm not willing to start going down that road.  So for now I'll stick to just ending the action for a bit.  If nothing else the little break is good for breaking up a string of misses.  Sometimes he gets into a groove of missing and I can't get him out of it short of ending the session.  He didn't have any 2 misses in a row for yesterday's session, we'll see if it holds up for more sessions.

Stats for yesterday's session:

8/11 (73%)

5/8 hits (62%) were for full dogwalks, the other 3 were back chaining

Set-up was dogwalk-treat gizmo

He's focusing too much on the treat gizmo so I'm going to introduce a jump back in next time. 

Went out to the training field this a.m. and unfortunately the dogwalk had blown over in yesterday's hurricane force winds (it was calm in the morning when we practiced).  No way I could right that thing on my own so it may be a few days until I can get back to training.  Guess it was a good idea to cancel yesterday afternoon's bike ride.  It felt good to have a rest day anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week in Training


Left Chicago.  Home in the late afternoon but too tired/dizzy to do much.


Still too tired and playing catch up.

Walk:  2 mile walk around Wonderland Lake w/ Strummer


Swim:  2300 yards/1 hour (mid-day masters, Tiffany coach, lotsa drills/kick, little bit o' sprinting)

Run:  1.2 miles/20 mins. of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk (1/4 mile warm-up, .65 mile cool down/20 mins.)

Walk:  1 mile stroll w/Cody & Lola

125.6 lbs


Agility:  Dogwalk practice at B.E. [4/8 (50%) full dogwalk, 7/10 (70%) backchaining, 11/18 (61%)
            total, set-up was tunnel/dogwalk/treat gizmo (sometimes no tunnel, just started with
            dogwalk), did not reward 3 hits, did not reward any misses)]

Mountain Bike:  15.4 miles/1 hour 50 minutes (Broadway/Eagle Trail/Boulder Valley/Left Hand)

Chiropractor in afternoon.


Swim: 2550 yards/1 hour (mid-day masters, Amy coach,  great workout, sets of 100's, the
                 couple that I timed were 1:37-1:38, fast for me, very fun)

Agility:  1 hour handling practice, shorter exercises

Walk:  1 1/4 mile with Strummer and Cody

123.6 lbs  (2 lbs lost in 2 days?  Seems weird and unlikely.)


Agility:  45 minutes handling practice, rear crosses

Power Hike:  1.4 mile (approx.)/30 mins. of 4 mins. power hike/1 min. (Hogback loop)

Hike:  1 mile/30 mins. (Foothills trail and part of Hogback loop)

Mountain Bike:  4 miles/30 mins. (Wonderland/Foothills trails, to and from Dakota Ridge trailhead)

Walk:  1 1/4 miles w/Strummer and Cody


Mountain Bike:  18.6 miles/2 hours (Marshall Mesa/Community Ditch/Doudy Draw/Flatirons
                        Vista/Dirty Bismark, 60's, partly cloudy, windy)

Walk:  2 miles with Lola and Cody (and Heidi and Zigi)


Swim:  4850 yards/2 hours

Mountain Bike:  38 miles/4 hours, 20 minutes

Run:  1.2 miles/20 mins. of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk

Power Hike:  1.4 miles (approx.)/30 mins. of 4 mins. power hike/1 min.

Total Training Hours:  7 hours, 10 minutes

Walk:  5.5 miles

Hike:  1 mile

Weight: 123.7 lbs (-1.2 lbs. from 2 weeks ago)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dirty Bismark

The final pieces of trail were finally completed forming a loop that roughly follows the Morgul Bismark which was a stage of an old famous road race held here in Colorado back in the day.  But this is the dirty, R-rated, more fun version.  I've done the loop once before by cobbling together some bits of dirt road and bike path between the trails but now you can do the whole thing on trails.

Jonny rode with me and we did a slightly different version, opting to cross over Hwy. 93 at the start to add on the Community Ditch, Doudy Draw and Flatirons Vista trails, about 3.6 miles extra plus a good steep climb up Doudy Draw.  We rode the loop counter-clockwise which I think is better because that way you go down a very steep long hilly part where the trail is wide gravel and not as nice as the other trails.  If you do it the other way you have to climb that hill and it only prolongs the misery.  It's the only part of the trail that isn't that nice and I say get it over with on a downhill.

View of the Continental Divide from the new trail

Funky wind farm with the Flatirons behind.  The road is the old Morgul Bismark route.

Spring is springing people!  I'm excited.  Cannot believe I was riding my bike in shorts in March on trails.

The downside of this dry warm weather is that there was smoke from a fire visible over in the Golden area.  It's not threatening homes at the moment but it's a windy day and it's growing like wildfire (a news announcer actually said that during a report of the Boulder wildfires so now it's a running joke around here). The winds have died a bit so hopefully they'll get it under control.

That first 3.6 miles was busy on the trails, we got a late start because we kept waiting for the wind to die down as promised.  But despite the crowds people were good about sharing the trails.  There were a lot of very cute dogs on the trails and I'm happy to report that none of them tried to take a chunk out of my calf or run under my wheel.  However once we hit the High Plains Trail on the Dirty Bismark it was peace and quiet but for the occasional cyclist.

It looks like a gloomy day from the photos but the sun was shining with enough cloud cover to keep us cool, great conditions except for the occasional strong gusts of wind.  I drafted off Jonny for most of the windy bits though so it wasn't so bad.  I wanted to stop to take more pictures but I had to pedal hard to keep on his wheel and enjoy the draft so I resisted the urge to stop.

A close-up with my new point and shoot camera.  Can't believe how much this thing zooms in for such a cheapy thing.

Looks like I'll have to get back there during the week for more photo ops., twist my arm.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


We had to cut agility practice short yesterday because it got too hot.  52 degrees doesn't sound very hot but it's all about what you're acclimated to and the dogs were hot and hiding in the shade of the A-frame after half an hour or so.  Sun was bright as well.  I was overdressed and sweating in a long sleeve running top, could have easily had shorts and a t-shirt.

Still was a good practice, some fun, short exercises since I knew I'd be tired after swimming practice in the morning.  Struggled with an easy threadle, don't know what my problem was.  My body wasn't listening to my brain or something.  Strum pulled off a lead-out push like he did at the last trial so was good to get some practice with that.  He did so well at the seminar on much more complicated scenarios, not sure why he's pulling off now.  Worked in some rear crosses to get some practice with them.  Fun!

Practice 3-18-2011 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I love training, especially with Strummer.  He's such a happy, bouncy soul and excited to do whatever.  You should hear the whine-moaning when he realizes he's going to do agility somewhere.  Sometimes he'll go on for 10 minutes or more if he realizes soon enough where he's going.  Such a goof.

Went back this morning to avoid the heat and the 34 degrees felt a lot better.  Worked a challenging rear cross exercise but the hard part turned out to be the pulls after the rear crosses rather than the rear crosses themselves.  Haven't processed the video, will be interesting to see what was going on.

My chiropractor/P.T. guy assigned me some power hiking on super steep hills to build up to more running.  Looks like a beautiful sunny day in the 60's so should be great for hiking.  Feels good to be back to a workout schedule.  Sitting around on my butt in Chicago was not good for anybody.

Friday, March 18, 2011


SO happy to be home from my trip to Chicago.  It was great to see friends and family but it seems wherever I go these days I'm wishing I was home.  It was gloomy and that damp bone chilling cold the entire time we were there and we had left behind sunny 60 degree weather.  We only saw glimpses of the sun for 3 days, kind of depressing.

I took some photos around my grandmother's neighborhood because there wasn't a whole lot to do and I didn't want to leave her for too long to go into the city.  That's the other problem with Chicago, the traffic is so bad that if you want to go anywhere it turns into an all day affair.

I've long been fascinated/horrified with the changes over the years to my childhood neighborhood.  The house on the left is one of the many garish castle-like McMansions that have popped up in stark contrast to the modest post war mid-century ranches and split levels that make up the neighborhood.

Another behemoth eyesore

This is a more typical house with a garage that was added on years after the original construction

Even in the current crappy real estate climate this relatively modest 1700 square foot house recently sold for $500,000.   The ugly 5000 square foot McMansions go for around a million.  The reason for this is the school district.  New Trier typically gets ranked in the top ten public school districts in the country.  My high school had its own radio station and cable t.v. station.  How ridiculous is that?  Almost as ridiculous as the $8,000/year property taxes that the house above pays.

Growing up I always thought the architecture in my neighborhood was hideous but now it seems somewhat historic.  The neighborhood was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and those flat roofs are a huge pain in the ass but still, something nostalgic about the houses especially in view of the atrocities replacing them.

The house above is very similar to the one I grew up in (we were fancy and had a garage) and I thought I grew up in a mansion.

I survived the wedding, just.  David Lynch could have gotten some good inspirations for characters is all I'm saying.  I think by design maybe all formal weddings resemble a David Lynch film to some extent.  It was a Jewish ceremony and it's traditional for the groom to stomp on a glass at the end and the rabbi explained the various reasons for the ritual.  My favorite explanation was the old school, superstitious interpretation that back in the day people broke dishes outside their homes to keep the evil spirits away.  I was sure the mother of the groom was going to transform into a demon and scamper away, cackling with evil laughter after her son stomped on the glass.  The woman looked like she was from one of those 'Housewives of I Can't Take Care of Myself-ville' reality t.v. shows.  She had a tattoo of a parrot/tropical scene that covered her entire back and the important thing to note here is not the tattoo but the fact that she was dressed so inappropriately for her age and the occasion that I could report to you that the parrot covered her entire back.  The 'What Not to Wear' people could have had a field day with the age inappropriate outfits at this shindig.  Copious amounts of cleavage and/or short, skin tight dresses is simply not a good look for the 50-60+ crowd.  And this is coming from someone who wore fleece lined lycra black running tights and a pair of smart wool socks with clogs with her dress.  I'm sorry but if I'm going to a wedding in Chicago in March I'm going to have to do something so I don't freeze. 

Then there was the father of the groom who looked like the leader of a creepy polygamous cult and was groping women throughout the reception.  He also looked like he was sky as kite on something and I have to admit I was a bit jealous.  Maybe that's how people get through weddings.  Probably shouldn't have disposed of the Vicodyn from my foot surgery 2 years ago.  Then there was the copious amounts of eyeliner that the 20-something guys were wearing along with black suits and pork pie hats.  At first I thought we were having a live ska band for the reception but no such luck.  I know, I'm tossing huge boulders from glass houses by commenting on other people's fashion disasters but I had to do something to keep myself amused.  My aunt seated us at a table with complete strangers and I had to listen to a guy boasting endlessly about his grown son's Harry Potter website.  Seriously.  According to the father J.K Rowling did 2 interviews after her last book, one with Katie Couric and the other with his son.  Because while most kids grow up and give up their fan websites this guy stuck with it and absorbed them all and has the biggest one.  The father was quite proud of this.  I was envying my secret agent cousin who got out of this wedding because supposedly he's on the Afghan border dealing with the Iran/Afghan crisis.  That's his story anyway.  I wonder if I could start making up stories like that?

Ah well, I'm home now and Cody was fine at the vets as well as the other 2 trouble monkeys.  I nearly called the vet at one point to check on him but I restrained myself.  Have to draw the 'crazy dog lady' line somewhere before I slip too deeply into the abyss.  Looks like sunny warm weather for the next few days so I can finally put the finishing touches on my dogwalk and reposition it so it's hopefully workable.  Decided not to enter Strum in any Standard classes or Grand Prix for his upcoming trial in a couple of weeks.  His dogwalk is still only 60% or so in practice and I can't imagine it being fixed in 2 weeks, especially since it seems to be getting worse rather than better.  I may do the unthinkable and resort to a stride regulator but we'll see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lipstick on a crazy dog lady

One highlight of my trip home to Chicago was getting to spend some time with one of my aunts that I rarely see.  She lives in a different state but she came in for the wedding and was also staying with my grandmother.  She took me on an unlikely trip to Bloomingdales to pick up some make-up for herself, I was merely tagging along to get out of the house as I'm normally not a fan of Bloomingdales, shopping, or make-up, and we ended up getting make-overs from the Guerlain representative who happened to be at the counter that day.  Now I don't know the first thing about make-up or brand names or Guerlain or how much this stuff costs.  Here's a hint, this stuff costs a LOT.  I had no idea.  Here's another thing, if you knew the first thing about me you'd realize how hilarious and unlikely this scenario is.  My friend called me on my cell phone while I was in the hot seat getting $400 moisturizer applied to my face and I told him I can't talk now and you'll never guess where I am and what I'm doing.  When I saw him later that night at dinner and finally told him he burst out laughing to the point of snorting water out his nose.  When I showed him the 'after' pictures (oh yes, I took 'before' and 'after' pictures) I thought he was going to have an aneurysm.  'Can you send me a copy of this?', he asks, 'I have to send this to Michelle (a mutual friend of ours from childhood), she'll never believe this in a million years'.

I've only ever worn make-up once in my entire life and it was for a horse show.  My riding teacher slapped some lipstick on me and brushed some powdery glop on my cheeks right before I went in the ring.  The Guerlain lady does not look surprised when I tell her this.  My skin is pretty bad.  Colorado is so dry and the sun so intense.  I use a lot of sunscreen and hats but I'm out in the sun a lot and there's only so much you can do to prevent the inevitable damage.  My skin looks way worse than my aunt's and she's maybe 17 years or so older than me.  'What do you put on your face for moisturizer?' the Guerlain lady asks me.  'Oh I don't know, same stuff I put on my hands and body', I answer.  She looks horrified as does my aunt.  'And what do you wash your face with?'  She looks almost scared to ask this.  'Soap?'  I answer, knowing this is the wrong answer.  It is the wrong answer.  More looks of horror.  This lady is a pro though and she looks almost energized by the challenge I'm presenting her.

She starts with a cleanser and when she's done she shows me the dirt on the cotton pad.  I'm supposed to be alarmed by this.  She has no idea what my shower water looks like running off me after a day on the trails or at an indoors on dirt agility trial.  Then she applies a toner.  After she finds out I'm an engineer she starts using all sorts of technical terms to describe what all this stuff is doing and the research behind it.  'We're the first ones to use nanotechnology'.  Um, o.k.  'People come from all over the world to visit our orchid research facility on the border of Switzerland and Italy'.  They're big on orchids.  I get a technical explanation of how the miracle orchids in the $400 moisturizer are turning back the aging process in the cells of my skin.  'The orchids in this cream come from all over the world'.  It's supposed to impress me but all I can think is 'holy crap, what is the carbon footprint of this stuff?'  But she's a very nice lady and sales are how she pays her mortgage and puts food on her table and she's putting a lot of thought and effort into trying to take the huge dents out of my arid skin and help me look fabulous so I tell her, yes, this stuff feels amazing.  And the truth is it kind of does.

Then she starts in with the make-up.  She's asking me about 'foundation' and to me that means concrete grade beams and footings or piers or something to support a building.  She gives up on the idea of foundation.  She messes about with my eyes with an eyeliner pencil and this freaks me out a bit but I manage to muster up some inner strength and tough it out.  I'm so hardcore.  She decides not to push her luck and doesn't bother with eye shadow.  There's much discussion about which shade of blush to put on my cheeks.  I stay out of it.  When she was working on my aunt earlier I offered my opinion on which blush for her and I was all kinds of wrong.  Then the lipstick.  The woman is getting into it now, finally she can practice her art.  She has me hold out my hand and she starts smearing different shades of lipstick on my palm.  Earlier she had me hold out my palm and she told me she could tell I ate a lot of vegetables and fruit.  And sugar.  She was right about the veggies and sugar but I don't eat a boatload of fruit.  I'm thinking she should leave the palm reading to the fortune tellers and stick to the orchid nanotechnology.  Anyway, she has about 8 shades for me to choose from and the only one that doesn't scare me is the very one that she says would be the worst for me.  I don't understand why but she's the expert.  I rule out the pinky colors and tell her I don't know, you pick one from the rest.  She tries a few on my lips and finally both she and my aunt agree on a shade.  I don't know about the color but it has glitter in it so I like it.  Sparkly lips!  Because I have the sophistication of an 8 year old when it comes to this stuff.  You could probably buy me some 'My Little Pony' glitter lip gloss and I'd be happy.

Jonny was pretty shocked when I got back to the house but I didn't think there was too huge of a difference.  Unfortunately my hair was both dirty and in dire need of a cut (hasn't seen a stylist's scissors since before Labor Day) plus the harsh lighting in the Bloomingdales so the photos are not so flattering but still kind of funny.



The saleswoman looks quite defeated when I inform her I won't be buying anything.  I tell her she can write down the name of all the stuff and maybe I'll think about it later.  'What is causing you to wait until later?' she asks me.  'The lack of reliable employment'  I answer.  Though to be honest even if I have a zillion dollars I'm not spending $400 on face cream, it's just not right somehow.  But my aunt insists on buying me lipstick and unbeknownst to me she buys me a container of moisturizer that's made from roses rather than the $400 fountain of youth orchids but is still very fancy expensive stuff that I would never buy for myself and should hopefully work better than the random hand cream from Target.  Now I just need somewhere to go that requires me to wear sparkly lipstick.

Week in Training

Training took a hit this week due a trip to Chicago for a wedding.  I knew that it would and tried to get in as much as I could at the start of the week.  I was hoping to get in a run on Friday morning before leaving the house at 7 am and I was awake early enough to do it but the winds were howling at 60 mph and I was low on motivation anyway so I ended up with 3 rest days rather than 2. Got in 2 agility practices and that was plenty.


Swim:  2100 yards/1 hour (Amy coach, 1500 yards in first 40 minutes then 600 yards of drills in
                  last 20 mins.)

Run:  1.2 miles/20 mins. of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk (1/4 mile warm-up, .65 mile cool down/20 mins.)

124.9 lbs.


Swim:  2700 yards/1 hour (Tiffany coach, swimming in lane that was too fast for me so I wore
                  paddles/pull buoy for main set, was o.k. for all other sets, 6 people in our lane)

Main Set (used paddles/pull buoy):

2x100 yd on 1:35
1x200 on 3:15 (swam 200 on 3:00 or so)
3x100 on 1:40 (swam 100's on 1:24!)

I've been swimming 100's in 1:41-1:43 and pulling them in around 1:34-1:35 so swimming in that faster lane today was really good for me.

124.1 lbs


Agility:  Dogwalk practice and ran a full course that was set

Mountain Bike:  15.4 miles/1 hour 50 minutes (Broadway/Eagle Trail/Boulder Valley/Left Hand)


Agility:  Handling practice with training partner, around an hour or so of running around plus time to
            set the course and a short dogwalk session at the start

Mountain Bike:  13.2 miles/1 hour 30 minutes (Broadway/Eagle/Boulder Valley/Left Hand/Longhorn
                         to US36 to home. Felt sick/nauseous, bailed after out and back on Left Hand)


Chicago.  Did some walking but no training.

Swim:  4800 yards/2 hours

Mountain Bike:  28.6 miles/3 hours, 20 mins.

Run:  1.2 miles/20 mins. of 4 mins. run/1 min. walk

Total training hours:  5 hours, 40 mins.

Walk:  Lost track

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Handling and Dogwalk practice

Today was weave pole/tunnel day.  Strum did awesome with his weave entries, I was stunned.  The only one he missed was coming out of a tunnel and the tunnel was very close to the weaves so he had to collect hard and early.  It took him 4 tries even though I cued the weaves verbally while he was still in the tunnel.  But he finally got it, what an awesome boy.

Practice 3-10-2011 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

The exercises where from a Clean Run Backyard Dogs, I don't know which one, so I can't print them here but they were short and obvious enough you can see what's going on in the video.  We added in the A-frame, what they hey, wanted to get some contact practice in.  Strum missed the first one but I called it and had him redo it and he was perfect for the other reps.

Overall I could have gotten more collection in some places but I think we did a nice job and I remembered to keep my eye on him.  Had a nice lateral send at the end of Exercise #3 and was able to get far enough ahead to put in a front cross after a tunnel-whee ha!  I think maybe some of the seminar lessons actually sank in though I did have one botched forward send.


Running Dogwalk

I finally looked at the video from yesterday's nightmare of a practice and on paper it doesn't sound as bad as I thought:  9/15 (60%).  That's still bad but I thought it was more around 30%.  Unfortunately the misses are on the full dogwalk while the hits are mostly back chaining of the down plank.  I cut the video short, even I don't want to sit through 15 reps.  You get the gist of what's happening.  Set-up was jump-dogwalk-tunnel-treat gizmo.

Today I decided we needed some success so before handling practice I set up the treat gizmo at the end of the dogwalk for a couple reps. then replaced it with a jump for a couple more.  I didn't put a jump in before the dogwalk.  Technically he was 4/4 (100%) but two of the hits were high for my liking and sloppy looking.  But it felt so good to have some success.  I think the new plan will be to continue with the successful set-up for one more practice, start the next practice with the jump then after several good reps. replace the jump with the tunnel and see if he can maintain success.

Puking on the Bluebird of Happiness

You probably think I'm speaking metaphorically but unfortunately I'm being literal.  I started out my bike ride today on a fabulous 64 degree blue sky calm winds day but ended up starting to feel not so fabulous about 20 minutes in.  It was so nice though, I couldn't bear to turn around so I kept going and told myself the pain in my gut would probably pass after a bit.  I picked up the Left Hand Trail and decided to put the pain out of my mind.  But after another half hour things had not improved and in fact had gotten considerably worse.  I noticed the beautiful deep shock of blue of some bluebirds and decided to stop and see if I could get a photo and calm my stomach.

Not so bad for a cheapo point and shoot.  I was crazy far away, the birds were specks on a fence from where I stood.

I don't often see Bluebirds, especially not down at this elevation.

I have a shot of the bright blue wings in flight but it's so blurry it might start your stomach to turning.

Anyway while taking the photos I felt as if I might end up sharing my lunch with the birds so I decided to take a short cut home on the roads after I got off the Left Hand Trail.  Of course as soon as I turned onto the dirt road the wind started blowing head on and I had an unpleasant climb ahead of me made even more unsavory.  But I made it home no problem and felt much better on the way home so I'm guessing I hadn't let my lunch settle enough before heading out on the bike.  Such a gorgeous day, I couldn't bear to sit around and wait.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Test Drive

I decided to replace my point and shoot camera because I was very sad not having a camera to take with me on the bike.  I didn't want to spend a lot so I ended up buying a Panasonic Lumix for $120.  It has an 8x zoom which was more than the typical cameras in that price range and other than that I didn't care about features, I figured they're all more or less the same.  Plus it's red!  I took it for a test drive on the Left Hand/Boulder Valley trails this afternoon.

Left Hand Trail

Hill up the Left Hand Trail

Left Hand Trail

Boulder Valley-it was windy today, look at those whitecaps

Lenticular cloud over the Flatirons (view from the Eagle Trail)

Somehow the photos look nicer on my computer than they do uploaded to Blogger, the blue sky looks so washed out.  Oh well, that's not the camera's fault.  I'm happy enough with the photos given the price of the thing and it's about half the size and weight of my old point and shoot.  The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have a manual view finder, you have to use the digital screen on the back of the camera and it's pretty much impossible to see anything in it in bright sunshine which is where I plan on taking most of my photos.  Not sure what to do about that.

It was colder than penguin snot Monday and Tuesday with a layer of ice over everything but today was sunny and 50's, great weather for a bike ride and some agility.  It was windy but that just made for a better workout.

Strum's dogwalk practice this morning was depressing, the worse so far though I haven't reviewed the video.  At least they were obvious misses that I didn't reward.  The part that killed me was that he seemed to be trying so hard but he couldn't work out what he was supposed to do.  If I back chained it and had him run down just the down ramp he was o.k. but he couldn't seem to put it together with a head of steam on the full dogwalk.  Set-up again was jump-dogwalk-tunnel-treat gizmo.  I straightened the tunnel out a bit so the treat gizmo wasn't next to the dogwalk as a distraction but it didn't matter.  I don't want to go back to the table/plank thing because I've done that before and it doesn't help.  He needs to learn how to manage that down plank at speed.  I guess we keep plugging away but lately I only seem to be digging a deeper hole.  I was sure I'd have this fixed by the April USDAA trial but now I don't know if I should enter.  I'm not going to waste any money on Grand Prix that's for sure.

On a brighter note there was a course still set up from over the weekend.  We gave it a bash and had a nice run, except for the dogwalk though he did finally get his contact on his second try.

This was an AKC Excellent course from some out of state trial.  It was straight forward and much easier than the DOCNA courses I've been doing lately because the distances were so much closer together.  I was ahead no problem for the whole course.

For laughs I tried a rear cross on the flat between 7 and 8 and it worked nicely, Strum had his eye on the table before he took the #8 jump.  I was even able to get way ahead on the straight-ish line of jumps from 11 to 15 and got in a front cross before the #16 teeter.  I also practiced that with a rear cross at the teeter but I liked the front better, got me further along the course and I didn't have to stop and wait for him to get on the teeter.  Nothing else terribly interesting about this course but it was nice to run something and finally have some success.  Handling felt much smoother than the other day and I remembered to keep my eye on Strum which is the main thing I'm focusing on right now.

More agility tomorrow morning and hopefully another bike ride then no training (or computer access) of any kind for 4 days.  I'm thinking the break from all of it will do us all some good.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Scared straight

Those straight tunnels, they're killing me.  So simple in concept yet so confounding in practice.  Damn you to hell straight tunnels.  My training partner feels my pain so we agreed on a straight tunnel exercise for last Friday's practice.  The courses are from Kathy Keats and you can see them here.

I didn't help that I was tired.  Masters swim practice was only a couple of hours before and by Friday I'd had nearly all of my weekly triathlon training behind me since I knew I'd be in a class all weekend and unable to get in any big workouts.

I hemmed and hawed about posting these videos.  They might not be all that fun to watch.  My brain is still chewing on the information from the seminar last month.  You can almost see the smoke coming off my head in the videos as I try to puzzle through how to put it all together.  Fluency will come at some point but for now it's not very pretty.  Plus the part about being tired and it was cold and damp so Strum was fast and not tiring out.  But it is what it is for now.

I'll start with Exercise #3.  We used 12 weave poles instead of the specified 6 for all exercises and this added to the challenge.

EXERCISE #3, 3-4-2011 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Getting from #4 to the #5 weaves required some good snooker handling.  At first I didn't respect the challenge enough and got the tunnel.  Then I overhandled it and it worked but wasn't pretty.  Finally Goldilocks got is just right.  Or close enough for government work anyway.  Next was the #7 tunnel to #8 jump.  I didn't need to break out the calculus to figure out that there was no way I could beat Strum to the end of that tunnel let alone get ahead enough to cue that jump as a push with him on my left.  All calculations lead to knee surgery so I decided to do a front cross on the flat in front of the tunnel and pull to 8.  I was still behind and got a lot of head checking at 8-9.  Getting to 10 was again another challenge that I first underhandled then overhandled.  I keep forgetting that I can run forward but still turn my body to the side and keep eye contact.

Exercise #2

EXERCISE #2, 3-4-2011 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

4-6 was sort of a mirror image of the same issue from Exercise 3.  I struggled even more with getting that #6 jump without a lot of head checking because I was so far behind.  Even yelling 'Go Jump' while he was in the tunnel and again when he exited didn't seem to help.  This was even more challenging for my training partner's dog who is also super fast but smaller so his stride didn't carry him quite as far out of the tunnel and she had to work even harder for that jump.  Again, those 12 weave poles spread things out and we had a 20' tunnel so it was even more challenging than the course on the map.  Since both of us struggled we're going to continue to work on sends out of a tunnel in future practices.

Exercise #1

EXERCISE #1, 3-4-2011 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

The challenge for me here was the rear cross between 4 and 5.  Handling wise a better option might have been a front between 3 and 4 but I wanted to practice rear crosses.  I went over my video on the rear cross exercises from the seminar and I had done decent job there but struggled in the context of a course.  I kept trying to pull off a deceleration rear cross in part because I wanted to practice it but also because if I let him get too far ahead of me and then decelerated the cue was too late and he was already in extension when he committed to that #5 jump.  I don't know if that's good handling logic and the struggle was with the execution (well, I know the struggle was with the execution) but it took some tries to pull it off.  I think I edited out too much video for this exercise and exercise 2 as well.  Not sure what happened.

I have also some dogwalk footage from Thursday.

He was 3/6 (50%).  Sigh.  I rewarded the 2nd and 3rd reps. even though they were misses so 4/6 (67%) for me.  I knew #2 rep. was a miss the second I rewarded it.  I was too far behind and spoke too soon.  I didn't spot the #3 rep. as a miss until I saw the video.

I think the problem is that he needs to know where he's going.  In the past I've practiced turns by putting the treat gizmo off to the side like it is here, signaled the turn and rewarded with the gizmo so it looked like at first he thought that's the game we were playing and I was so far behind on that 2nd rep. that I was in effect cueing a turn. 

Today should be dogwalk practice day but there's a light dusting of snow and a coat of ice on everything so we may only get one day in this week.  Once again I'm unable to train over the weekend so my schedule is running a bit feral this week.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Week in Training

Now that it's March I plan on posting weekly training updates.  The plan for the month for triathlon is to start increasing volume.  I think this will be my last week of mid-day masters workouts that focus on skills and drills and next week I'm going to start going to the workouts that focus more on yardage and intervals.  I'm hoping to be back to regular running in a few weeks as well.  Still having some issues with recovering from the car crash as far as running goes.

The plan for agility is to fix the dogwalk, keep improving on weave entries and for handling I'm focusing on keeping my eye on Strummer and timing my cues based on where he is.  Next trial is in April.

I also discovered at my yearly physical exam that I'm about 10-12 lbs too heavy so I'm on a mission to take those lbs off in the next 6 weeks.  I set a goal of 2 lbs for this week and I ended up losing 1.5.  Maybe 2 lbs a week is unrealistic but we'll see how next week goes.


Swim:  2300 yards/1 hour (mid-day masters, Amy coach, lotsa 'distance per stroke drills', kick and

Run:  20 mins., 2 mins. run/1 min. walk (1 mile in middle of 4.16 miles hike w/ Strum, Kiln Trail,
         south side of Wonderland Lake, east side of lake to home)

Walk:  3 miles/1 hour (approx.) (see above)

126.4 pounds


Mountain Bike:  16.82 miles/1 hour 50 mins. (Broadway/Eagle Trail/Boulder Valley/Left Hand and
                         back)  Beautiful day, sunny, high 50's, maybe low 60's.

Agility:  Dogwalk practice with Strum at Biscuit Eaters.  5 reps. running length of dogwalk, other
            practice was minimal running, approx. 3/4 mile cool down walk

Walk:  1 mile stroll with Strum and Cody


Swim:  2700 yards/1 hour 10 mins. (mid-day masters, Tiffany coach, main set was 50 yard sprints,
           whee ha!  Got there a little early and got in an extra 300 yards including 100 yards on my
           back butterfly kick)

Main Set:
50 yards on 1:00 (did it in :44)
50 yards easy
2x50 on 1:00 (:45-:46)
100 yards easy
3x50 on 1:00 (:45-:46)
150 yards easy
4x50 on 1:00 with fins (:38-:39)
200 easy

I was glad to finally have some set intervals, those mid-day workouts are mostly '3rd person rest' which would be o.k. if people wouldn't leave 3 secs. off the feet of the person in front of them (5 secs minimum is more typical) so you end up with not enough rest.  The next lane up (fastest lane) was coming in at around :38-:39 so I have a long ways to go to move over there.  Not sure if I'll ever get there and for now it's not a priority for a goal.  Improving my bike and run are more important goals for now and will save me more time during a race.  My swimming is in pretty good shape for now.  I think it's time to move away from these skill/drill focused workouts and start going to the ones that have more intervals.  I like to focus on my stroke during the winter months but now it's time to start working.

Run:  Same as Monday.

Walk:  .8 mile easy with Lola

125.6 lbs  (had one less cup of tea today so weight could be less due to water)


Agility:  6 reps running dogwalk, some teeter practice, no other running

Mountain Bike:  14.04 miles/1 hour 45 mins. (Broadway/Eagle Trail/Boulder Valley/Left Hand and
                         back)  Beautiful day, windy with gusts at 28 mph, 50's, mix of sun and clouds

Walk:  1.4 mile/40 mins. stroll with Cody & Lola, east side of Wonderland Lake


Swimming:  2400 yards/1 hour 7 mins. (mid-day masters, Amy coach, drills/kick/sprints and some
                  kicking/treading water that cut into yardage but was probably harder than swimming)

Agility:  2 hours handling at B.E. w/Strum and training partner.  Lots of running.  Tripped on tunnel
            and fell, little sore but o.k.

124.8 lbs


Run:  20 mins. of 2 mins. run/1 min. walk/1.5 miles and 20 mins./1.1 miles walk of warm-up/cool
         down (concrete bike path in Westminster, cold gloomy day)


Rest day.

Walk:  2 miles easy on lunch break from class.


Swim:  7400 yards/3 hours, 17 mins.

Mountain Bike:  30.86 miles/3 hours, 35 mins.

Run/Walk:  3.5 miles/60 mins. of 2 mins. run/1 min. walk

Total time:  7 hours, 52 mins.

Walk:  12.5 miles/4 hours, 20 mins.

124.9 lbs (-1.5 lbs) as of Monday, March 7

Friday, March 04, 2011

Stupid Handler Tricks

I don't remember them covering drunk tunnels in any of the seminars or lessons I've been to.  Maybe somebody out there knows how to handle them.

I have some actual useful video from today's practice and more dogwalk footage but after working myself silly at this morning's masters swim session then chasing Mr. Crazyass Rocketpants all over the agility field for 2 hours in the cold I'm beat.  I'm away at a class all weekend but I'll get to it eventually.  For now I'm crashing on the couch and hoping I can stay awake until the end of Fringe.  Better set my VCR just in case.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Yet more dogwalk shenanigans

I signed up for a monthly pass at the training field and my goal is to get out there at least twice a week to once and for all get this dogwalk fixed.  Set-up for today was jump-dogwalk-jump-treat gizmo all in a straight line.

The first 2 reps are two more examples of split legs but still a missed contact.  The second one was very obvious and I marked it but the first one was less so and I rewarded.  The final three reps. were delovely. Why can't the little stinker do that all the time?

It was a relatively warm morning, sunny and in the 40's, so 5 reps was about all I could get before he started getting hot.  Final stats were 3/5 (60%) hits, 4/5 (80%) for me correctly rewarding.  Next time I'll replace the jumps with tunnels.  These are much harder for him, I'm curious to see how it goes.

We also worked on some weave stuff, straight tunnel to a set of 6 weaves then a space then another set of 6 weaves.  He was perfect for a few reps of that, even with me moving with him out of the tunnel.  Next we did a few A-frame/tunnel discriminations with the tunnel being the farther away obstacle.  I worked on sending him from one jump away and he was perfect with the tunnel sends, took the tunnel once instead of the A-frame then got it right and we quit for the day.  With warmer temps. coming I'll have to get out there earlier.  Unfortunately it doesn't open until 8:30 am.