Friday, September 30, 2011

Holy CRAP! USDAA Nationals in Denver???!!!

O.k., who saw that coming???!!!  Not me, that's for sure.  I swore up and down I'd never go to USDAA Nationals again until I was convinced they could organize themselves better but how can I not try to go to Nationals when it's 30.4 miles/44 minutes from my house??!!  And I've already missed a USDAA trial this coming weekend because let me tell you this was certainly not on my radar and I didn't want to go to a far away trial the weekend after DOCNA Champs.  And DOCNA Champs are also 40-45 minutes from my house this year just 3 weeks before USDAA Nationals.  What the heck is going on?  This throws a huge monkey wrench in my plans/goals for next year.

I'm warning you all though, Commerce City is GROSS.  Stinky big industrial power plants type gross.  And the site is next to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal which is full of nasty buried toxic waste.  Like I think it was a Superfund site at one time type of nasty toxic waste.  But still, 44 minutes from my house!  I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it.

Anybody want to team with Strummer for the March USDAA trial at Castle Rock?  He finally has his 22" Championship permanent height card.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

DOCNA Champs 2011

Overall we had a great Champs, lots of solid improvement over last year.  A puzzling number of bars came down and that happened last year as well so I have to wonder if there's something about the footing that Strummer struggles with.  Though I'll take credit for a bar or two.  He only missed a couple weave pole entries compared to nearly every one last year and his dogwalks were awesome.  He got 4/5 (80%) during Champs, only missed one on Traditional Gamblers where it didn't 'matter'.  He did miss one on his Standard warm-up run and it cost us a Q so the percentage goes down to 4/6 (67%) for the whole weekend but still I was pleased.  Missed only one A-frame out of about a million and that was the last day during the Strategic Time Gamble.  I flung my arm up into the air and sent him flying early off the A-frame.  I think it was the only instance of arm flinging all 4 days though so that was good.

DOCNA Champs is so well organized and well run, it's truly an event designed with the competitor in mind.  I was through with my 4 runs each day by 2:00-3:00 and most days all the runs were done by 4:00-4:30.  The awards were another matter, usually running until 5:00 or so.  There are a lot of awards in DOCNA, in a way it's kind of ridiculous but that's another post for another day.    The most excellent food vendor was back again with wonderful, tasty fresh food and vegetarian options at great prices.  Weather was sunny in the mid-80's again each day but mornings were nice and cool and 2-3 of my 4 runs were in cool to reasonable temps.  I even wore a fleece for Sunday morning's run.

Our best event was Jumpers.  Only one bar down out of 3 runs and we finished 3rd overall compared to last year where we had about a million bars down each run, some off courses and I believe finished DFL.  The courses were once again serps. & pinwheels.  Somehow despite all my practice I still managed to bungle both serpentines a little, even turning into him on one of them which is something I haven't reverted to in ages.  Don't know where that came from.  We were in 2nd place going into the Finals even with the bar down because DOCNA scores Jumpers & Standard as time plus faults for Champs. but I had a few handling bobbles in the Final round and we ended up in 3rd.

Jumpers Rounds 1, 2 and Finals

Standard also went well.  Round 1 was clean and put us in 2nd place with just under a second behind 1st.  But he had a bar down in Round 2 and combined with a refusal and a missed weave entry we ended up 7th overall and missed making Finals by 2.4 seconds.  The absence of any one of those mistakes would have put us in the Finals.   Again a huge improvement over last year.  I was so pleased, especially that he got both dogwalks with nice solid hits.  In fact the missed weave entry was caused by me mentally celebrating the dogwalk and forgetting to verbally cue the weaves in time.

The North America Challenge (like USDAA's Grand Prix) was another lovely run with a beautiful dogwalk with a tricky 180 turn to tunnel (not a flip) with 3 off course options that he had to run past to get the tunnel.  My training partner gave me a great handling tip and it worked a treat.  We had 2 bars down but no other refusals or errors and while I wasn't happy about the bars I was so happy with the run overall.  Last year we had an off course and other errors so this was a big improvement.

Sorry for the red, white and blue tie dye t-shirt fashion disaster nightmare but those were the shirts DOCNA gave us and we were sort of pressured into wearing them for the day.  I was horrified wearing this thing but it's important to pick your battles in life and this one wasn't worth it.

NAC and Standard Rounds 1 and 2

Then there were the games-Snakes and Ladders, Trigility, Traditional Gamblers and Strategic Time Gamble.  We ran Snakes & Ladders and our Jumpers portion of Trigility clean and took 3rd place in both.  Strum did the gamble beautifully in Traditional Gamblers but I wasn't watching my footing and went thundering over the gamble line like a herd of elephants.  I realized as both feet were in the air that I was going over and it must have been a comical scene to see me trying to backpedal mid-air.  Strategic Time Gamble was our worst event.  I flung my arm out during the opening causing the only missed A-frame of the day and sending him not where I intended him to go.  He also missed a weave entry.  Then I added an extra loop trying to waste time and that actually put us over time.  If I'd just left the ring we would have been fine.  Ah well.  It was Sunday morning and I was tired and not with my heart in that run.  Last year it was our best run of the trial.


And what would a Championships be without an obligatory cheesy ribbon photo.  I'm missing our fancy overall Jumpers ribbon because Jonny left after Jumpers taking Strummer with him and I came home later after the awards with a friend.

I love the crazy look on his face, sums him up perfectly.  I should have taken my hat off but oh well.

Even though I'm cranky at the idea of splitting the West Champs into 2 next year and I wasn't planning on going I may rethink it because I had such a great time this year.  If it conflicts with some other event (ie Xterra Nationals) I won't go but it's hard to pass up such a fun event when it's only 40-45 minutes away.

I was tired after 4 days and thankful that Grand Junction isn't that long of a drive.  We finished with the awards at just after 2:00 and even with a long stop for gas and a few pockets of traffic we were home by 6:15 or so.  The leaves are changing late this year so it wasn't as golden driving home through the mountains this year as last but it was still pretty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thank Goodness for Instruction Manuals

Otherwise how would I know how to put on my goggles?

I kid you not, these instructions came with my goggles, graphics and everything.

The 'Directions' range from incomprehensible to inaccurate (nose bridge is not adjustable) to 'Duh!'  Believe me, if I've got inflamed skin around my eyes I'm going to stop wearing the goggles whether you tell me to or not, no need to say 'please'.

I think it's a good rule of thumb that if you need directions about how put on goggles you probably shouldn't be in water over your head in the first place.  I'm just sayin'.

The goggles were my consolation prize for not taking my entry to the regular Xterra race at Nationals.  Lance Armstrong did end up entering so it's just as well I'm at DOCNA Champs.  Wonder if that little voice in my head that told me to choose DOCNA Champs all those months ago is psychic.  I saw some photos from the bike course though and it looks so pretty, leaves are starting to change.  I hope they have it at Snowbasin in Utah again next year but I doubt it or I think they'd have announced it already.  I suppose I should focus on this year's goal for now though. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bad Timing and Good Dogwalks

I was watching some video of the bike course for this year's Xterra Championships in Ogden, Utah and it looked so nice, at least the portion shown on the video.  There's a brand spankin' new trail that the course goes on and it's so beautiful, sweet lovely smooth single track.  I was so hoping they'd use the same course for next year's Champs but since they've been in UT for the past 3 years I suspect they'll move them next year.  Then I check my email and see I've won a free entry ($95) to the 'citizen's race' (my wording) this year.  It's the same course as Champs but anyone can enter and you start 20 minutes after the folks who qualified for Champs.  And of course it's on the same weekend as DOCNA Champs. which is why I never set my sights on qualifying this year.  Argh.  Too late to get my entry fees back for DOCNA and I've committed to a Trigility team so can't let those folks down but I think otherwise I'd be there in a heartbeat.  I'm not in shape to compete at the Champs. level but I could do the race with the regular folks no problem.  Not something I'd normally pay for or set as a goal but I'd go with a free entry.  Ah well.  The other option for a prize was a free pair of swim goggles so at least that's something.

I've been easing Strum back into regular agility training these past couple of weeks and the dogwalk training started out depressing last week but today's practice looked good.

Last week:  4/10 - 40%
Yesterday:  3/4 - 75%
Today:  4/5 - 80%

Set-up was tunnel-dogwalk-tunnel for all reps.  I used the clicker yesterday but forgot today and used my regular verbal marker.  One of my strategies was to use the clicker more since my timing is much better now and I can mark the exact behavior to make things clearer for him.  The hits yesterday and today were really solid and I'm hoping he'll keep this up at Champs.

I joked to myself this morning that I should stop at 3 reps. because all were perfect and it would be 100% but it was a nice cool, cloudy morning and I wanted to get a couple more in.  Then he missed the 4th rep.  But he got the next one and I called it good for the day.  I didn't do the reps. consecutively today but mixed them in with other training, ie a dogwalk then some weaves then a dogwalk then some teeters, etc.  Weaves, teeter, A-frame were all looking great these past 2 days.  I think I had things set up to be too easy except the dogwalk (dogwalk to tunnel is the hardest for him).  I made things harder with the weaves and he popped out once and missed one entry but otherwise perfect.  Next practice I'll make things even harder but I want to ease him back in.  He's in great general physical condition but hasn't been doing those specific agility movements and he's 6 now so I'm being careful with him.  He seemed fine though, should do great at Champs. next week.  I think I'll get more excited about it once I'm there, had a great time last year, hopefully the courses will be challenging and not too repetitive.

As long as it's agility I'm happy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crazy Dog Lady Goes to Boot Camp

Wasn't there a movie like this back in the day with Goldie Hawn?  I went to a free trial session of one of those fitness boot camps and was expecting a big burly drill sergeant type lady to make me climb things and crawl under other things and run around a lot while she blew a whistle in my face and yelled at me to get my ass in gear.  But this is Boulder and instead I was greeted by a skinny yoga teacher chick who didn't have a whistle or yell even once and was perfectly pleasant.  She accused us of looking like the Sleestaks from the old Land of the Lost kiddie t.v. show while we were coming at her doing our lunges but that was the only trash talk and apparently I was the only one in the whole group who even knew what she was talking about.

The Sleestaks scared the crap out of me when I was 8 years old.  Their resemblance to Dick Cheney is uncanny and disturbing.

'That's what I get for growing up in Europe.  I don't know what you mean,' says one woman.  Ah Boulder.  But here's the thing about Fitness Boot Camp, it doesn't matter how much brie you have up your butt, you still have to do your lunges all the way across the field to the big tree then do your sideways lunge-y thingies all the way back.  No cheating.  I'm not sure what Skinny Yoga Chick had in store for those who dared defy her because nobody dared defy her.

I went to class on 'Strength Day' which meant there wasn't a whole lot of running around or climbing or crawling.  I was told to bring a yoga mat because in Boulder we have yoga mats not exercise mats.  There were also stretchy rubber cords with handles and a little short step stool thingy.  I don't do any strength training, at least not recently so I figured this would be good for me.  Some of the exercises were easier for me than others and some worked muscles that haven't seen the light of day since Madonna really was a virgin.  There were a lot of exercises to learn.  Just when I was getting the hang of one and starting to feel like I couldn't do it any longer she'd say, '10 more seconds' and then we'd be off to the next.  I suppose it's to keep people from getting bored and to torture as many muscle groups as possible.

The class felt challenging enough while doing it, at least the last 15 seconds of each exercise, but driving home I didn't feel as if I'd gotten much of a workout.  And then I woke up the next day and could barely move.  Skinny Yoga Chick had kicked my ass.  Everything hurt, even my eyes.  I stretched and iced and moaned and groaned.  Poor Jonny got sick of listening to the drama fest and said he was going for a ride up at Picture Rock in Lyons.  Of course I invited myself along because it was too beautiful of a day outside and how could I pass this up?

The trail is nice for about 40 minutes or so then starts getting rocky.  I can usually gut it out for maybe an hour but I decided to turn around as soon as it started getting rocky since I wasn't looking for a huge ride.  In the end I was about for about an hour.  Jonny continued on and I went back to the car and swapped bike for running shoes because apparently I'm a masochist.  It was a short run, just under 1/2 an hour and again how could I pass this up?

Some random guy on the trail.

Looking towards Lyons.

Summer finally let loose its death grip and the past 2 weeks have been perfect, 60'-70's.  Still a little warm for agility but we've been getting in some practices in preparation for DOCNA Champs. in a week and a half.  Wish I had equipment in my yard so we could do more but oh well.  Weaves and dogwalk are still not where I want them but my handling is starting to sharpen up a little.  I went running to get somewhere while Strum was in a tunnel and was surprised to find that I was easily where I needed to be when he came out.  All the triathlon training has been good for something.

I've been re-thinking my goal for Xterra Nationals next year though.  Lance Armstrong was out at this year's Nationals course checking it out to see if he might do it.  While many people would be thrilled with this news for me it would be a nightmare.  First of all I can't stand him and second of all it would turn the event into a circus and might make next year even worse.  He's like the Kurt Cobain of the mountain bike world, commercializing and ruining everything he touches for the regular folk.  Leadville 100 turned into a nightmare after he did it.  Now it's a huge mainstream event.  The original owners of the race sold it and now they let in way too many people for the size of the course.  Even if Lance passes on Xterra this year who's to say he won't do it next year?

At first I couldn't figure out why he was sniffing around Xterra races but then it hit me that they most likely won't drug test him.  And even if they do, the drug testing authority for Xterra is nothing like the one for road racing, he'll easily be able to elude them but I doubt they'll even bother.  I wish he'd just retire or at least leave the off-road triathlon world alone.  Or maybe the feds will finally get somewhere with the doping investigations.  Seems like they were making some headway but I've not heard anything lately and obviously he's not in jail so I don't know if they gave up or what.

I wish there were more smaller, independent races around.  The only one I know of in the area is in October and I fear the water will be way too cold or it might snow or I would enter it.  Both the Lory and Indian Peaks race used to be independent then other race owners took them over and turned them into Xterras.  Ah well, plenty of time to make up my mind before next year's season.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Jonny is on vacation this week and rather than spend money on hotels we decided to do day trips from home this year.  Also it was so hot this past week, it was nice to get up high and escape the oven down in town.

Lake Isabelle
Only a 45 minute drive up to the Brainard Lake Recreation area and such a luxury to go on a weekday when the crowds were minimal and mostly spry old retired folk with the big hiking poles.  My chiropractor has suggested these poles to me on more than one occasion and they do take an enormous amount of stress off your knees but they seem like such a hassle.  Surely I'm not old enough to need these yet?

The wildflowers are still bashing away up there.

Lake Isabelle is a puddle this time of year.

You can barely even see it from this view.  Normally those rocks in the foreground are under water.

Last bit of snow that refuses to melt.

Then there was the elk encounter we had on a different hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

What better time to learn how to use the video on your point and shoot camera than when confronted by a ginormous bull elk?

I got some photos of him and the girls as well.  Not too bad for a cheapo point and shoot camera.

View from Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lake Helene

View from Lake Helene

This was a short easy hike, only one steep section at the start and about 3 miles one way.  The trail was a bit rocky though.  It continues on to Lake Odessa but a storm was blowing in and we'd had enough excitement for one day so we had a nice lunch at Lake Helene and headed back.  The rain waited until we got in the car, perfect timing for the second or third time this summer.

I posted these photos and more on Facebook because I have friends, actual real life friends, who I thought would like to see them but who don't read the blog but I also wanted to have a copy of them on the blog so that's the reason for the double posting.  I think there's such a thing as too much social media and I'm straying into it but oh well.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Final Xterra Standings, Lory Race Photos, What Next?

Some links to photos from Xterra Lory:

Attack Position (bike)



I'm not sure how I've come to a point in my life where I find myself dressed in a skin tight lycra suit and sitting on a Slip-n-Slide but oh well.  At this point I'm not sure which of my sports is weirdest.

The final rankings came out for Xterra and I ended up 7/18 in my age group in the Mountain Region.  If I had done the Mountain Regionals in Beaver Creek and simply finished I would have come in 5th in the overall standings and qualified for Nationals without having to do any out of state races.  Or if I had done one other race and come in 4th place or better I also would have qualified.  Unfortunately qualifying and being good enough to go and be competitive are 2 different things and I'm a long way from there.  Also qualifying wasn't a goal for this year so I only entered 2 races and you can count points from up to 4 races.

The big question though is do I try to qualify and be good enough to go for next year?  I looked at the slowest and fastest of the competitive people who did the 2 races I did and I'd have to improve 1.9-2.8 mph on the bike for Lory, 2.5-3.6 mph on the bike for Indian Peaks (more technical, longer and at a high elevation).  I'd have to improve 4:10-4:45 min./mile on the run for Lory, 4:56-5:31 for Indian Peaks.  My swim times are competitive (faster at Lory) with the slower person but way off the fastest person.  I'd have to go from 1:54 min/100 yards to 1:25 min/100 yards and that represents a lot of work for very little overall time gain.  I know I can take a few minutes per mile off of my run because I'm so slow right now.  I just didn't have a lot of time to build up my running after recovering from the hamstring strain this summer.  But can I take off enough in a year to be competitve?  Not sure about the bike speeds either.  I can certainly get a bit better but how much hammering away can these old joints take?  And is the type of training going to be fun and worth it?

I could shoot for the long course Xterra's instead.  But is that training going to be even worse for injuries?  Not sure I have the patience and desire any more to train for a race that takes 6 hours.  I know I can do it but it's tedious and time consuming.  Training to be faster/more competitive might be more fun and certainly a different challenge than I'm used to.  I guess I've got plenty of time to decide, they haven't even announced date/location for next year's nationals let alone all the qualifying races.  I hate the end of race season, I always wish there was more and start obsessing over next year.

Strum says, yeah, whatever

Maybe if you got yourself a big stick you wouldn't worry about such silly things as races