Monday, March 26, 2012

Week in Training

Another good solid week of training despite taking 2 well needed rest days.  I backed off the biking and running a little and increased the swimming which is kind of cheating as far as training volume goes but my legs were crying uncle.  Weather says June buy my quads still say January.  I especially have to be careful with running because that's the place I'm most likely to injure myself if I get overzealous.  Had a great nearly 2 hour run yesterday on the very steep Hogback trail and no knee pain at all so for now I've got the balance just right.  And that was after 18 miles of biking on the trails at Lory State Park the day before so I was pleased to pull that off.  Running speed is still hopelessly slow but I feel so close to breaking through a plateau and having an improvement if I keep plugging away.

Strummer had 2 agility practices this week on his own out at the training field.  No problems whatsoever with the tire as first obstacle.  I'm convinced he was having over stimulation/start line issues rather than tire issues at that trial, it just happened that the tire was the first obstacle for so many courses.  His dogwalk fell apart yesterday, not sure what was going on but I'm hoping it's a fluke, he's been doing so well with it.  Otherwise he was great and I was horribly rusty.  Was rushing my cues, being unclear, not supporting things properly.  That will come back with practice though.  I've enlisted the help of my training partner so Strummer can go back to having some practices while he's wound up.  I also want to do some remedial start line stay training.  I can't have this dog lose his solid stay.  If he breaks his stay in training he'll lose his turn and the other dog will get to go.  Not sure if this will work because he actually likes watching the other dog but we'll give it a shot.

I've been loving the freakishly warm, sunny weather but March is normally our snowiest month and we haven't had any snow or moisture at all and this last week looks like yet more sunny and dry 70's as well.  Great for training but not so great for fire danger.  Hopefully we'll get some nice soaking rains in April.

Swim:  8100 yards/3 hours 35 mins.

Mountain bike:  32.12 miles, 3 hours 45 mins. (trails)

Run:  8.85 miles/2 hours, 19 mins.

Total training time: 9 hours, 39 mins.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Goals, Intuition, all that fun stuff

Lory State Park, site of one of my races this year.

I had a major, unexpected goal shift this week on the triathlon front.  My goal for the year has been to qualify for Xterra Nationals and last year my age group and Region had 5 slots available, 4 of which were used (1 person either didn't claim her slot or didn't go to the race, I was next in line but went to DOCNA Champs instead).  Without going into too many tedious details the gist of it is that there is one person who went to Nationals last year who I could maybe sort of catch up to this year and if just one of the other top 4 people didn't go it would mean I'd have a shot at qualifying but I'd have to work really really hard so this was a good goal.  I don't care much about titles, beating people, etc. but I do like goals where winning or running clean means you get to do something.  For example qualifying in USDAA Team means I get to go to Nationals, getting good placements in Xterra races means I get to go to Nationals, there's some concrete reward for my efforts as opposed to a ribbon or title or some sort of glory in beating someone just for the heck of it.  Nationals events for whatever sport have a special feel to them, it's a great feeling of accomplishment to attend them even if I'm not shooting for top awards.

However I found out this week that Xterra is taking a whopping 10 slots from my age group for Nationals this year so I could pretty much do 1 or 2 races and qualify no matter what place I got.  Last year there were 18 women in my age group who got points and only 7 did 2 races or more.  On the one hand this now makes my goal of qualifying not very challenging at all.  On the other hand it does take some unpleasant pressure off of me in that I was starting to obsess a bit over who else was showing up to races I had entered which is obviously something I have no control over.  I'd much rather focus on my own personal improvement rather than trying to be better than someone else and now I can shift focus to that rather than worrying about who will or won't show up to the races I've entered and how it will effect my ability to go to Nationals.

Which brings me to the intuition part of the story.  I hemmed and hawed a bit about entering the Xterra Mountain Champs because it's a longer, more difficult race than my others plus a lot of hassle due to the logistics of the race (2 1/4 hour drive in the mountains, 2 transition zones, etc.).  In the end I went with my gut and entered it before I knew about the extra slot for Nationals and now I'm glad I did because it's largely been the motivation for all the early season training I've been doing.  If I'd known I didn't need to do 4 races for Nationals I probably wouldn't have entered it but now that I've spent the money and there are no refunds I have to train for it and do it.  Nationals will also be a longer, more challenging course so even though I don't need to work hard to qualify, I will need to work hard to finish and do well there.  I've not got a shot at the podium but it would be nice to have a good solid race and not be struggling at the back of the pack.  And it's nice to know that I'll be able to go for sure so I'll be all the more eager to put in the hard work.

I also went with my gut and decided not to enter USDAA Regionals in April.  Cancelled my hotel reservations and had a huge surge of relief.  The main reason is the expense, it's too much time and money.  Right now both Strum and I are so rusty from time off for his injury, bad weather, etc.  I went out to the practice field this morning and it wasn't horrible but it wasn't fabulous either.  There was a USDAA standard course set up from one of the judges for Regionals and it was a fun little course but I had issues with sloppy handling and Strummer's dogwalk, which had been doing pretty awesome lately, had fallen to pieces once again.  He even had some misses with the stride regulator for the first time ever.  He's just turned 7 and at his age I simply can't put the reps on his body that it'll take to fix all our issues so I'll continue to plug along and try to find ways to train them but I don't want to spend a zillion dollars traveling to try to get a Grand Prix Q and he has one little mistake.  We have 5 local (2 hours or less) trials left and if I can't get 1 GP and 2 Steeplechase Q's out of those then we probably shouldn't blow the money entering them at Nationals anyway.  I know I can go in Team and whatever extra warm up games they have so I'm happy with that.

More pictures from my ride at Lory yesterday.  Was sunny, mid-70's, breezy, another picture perfect day.

Make a wish.

There's a creepy looking general store on the way to Lory.  One of these days I'll stop and go in and take better pictures of the creepy murals on the walls.

I cropped out the Harley biker guys and blew up the mural but it's still hard to see and I missed the creepiest part of it altogether.  I was taking this from a moving car.  Guess I'll just have to go back.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Week in Training

Not sure how it's Wednesday already and I forgot to post my training for last week.  Was such a good week though, better late than never.  The high volume, especially of biking, was due to a solid week of sunny weather mostly in the 70's.  I need to be putting in that kind of time/mileage on the bike all the time.  Got in some good solid running too.  My knee was feeling off for Thursday's run so I only went swimming on Friday and it felt fine for Saturday's ride with lots of climbing at Hall Ranch and Sunday's run with lots of climbing up the Hogback.  Knee is complaining a little this week so I'll step back a bit especially from the running.

So happy to get nearly 11 hours of training in though, especially so early in the season.  However I got a bit of a reality check riding at Hall Ranch.  Had to stop numerous times to catch my breath up the steep climb at the start.  The plan is for lots more climbing on both the bike and run for the next few weeks.

No agility training for Strum this week.  I planned to go out on Friday morning but it was already too hot before the field even opened.  No point driving out there and paying the drop-in fee for just a few minutes of practice before Strum started overheating.

I'm thinking about doing a cross country mountain bike race down in Pueblo next month but we'll see.  There are all different distances and I'd do either 12 or 23 miles.  Not sure it's something I want to spend the money on.  We'll see how crazy gas prices get next month.  I'm also not thrilled at the idea of driving 2 1/4 hours to ride in Pueblo.  The trails are supposed to be nice but such a long way to drive when there are nicer trails that are closer.  I've only ever done one cross country mountain bike race and I didn't care for it but I've got a lot more biking under my belt now so it might be a different experience.

Swim:  4800 yards/2 hours 13 mins.

Mountain bike:  42.5 miles, 5 hours 20 mins. (trails)

Run:  12.81 miles/3 hours, 18 mins.

Total training time: 10 hours, 51 mins.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hall Ranch

Three days on the trails in one week, and in March no less!  Somebody pinch me.

Another gorgeous blue sky Colorado day, this time at Hall Ranch.  Today was like that day in the fall when all the squirrels suddenly go crazy running around gathering their nuts or doing whatever they do except with cyclists instead of squirrels.  The road to Lyons is a popular cycling route and today it was solid with big packs of roadies as well as regular folk riding in smaller groups.  And Hall Ranch?  I've never seen it so busy.  Everybody and their granny and their granny's granny was at Hall Ranch.  Still, was so nice to be back on the trails.

When I stopped to take a photo a hiker stopped to chat with me and he said of the 45 cyclists that passed him (he was counting), 42 had said hi or thank you for stepping off the trail or acknowledged him in some way.  I was happy for that, trail access is a big issue for cyclists and to have positive feedback from a hiker on such a busy day was a very good thing.  Now if only the dog people would learn some manners maybe we would be allowed at Hall Ranch.  Or at least not get banned from any more trails.  But I'm in too good of a mood to start ranting about that.

I'm sure summer, or at least spring, is here to stay.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dirty Bismark

The weather has been an embarrassment of riches this past week.  The odd 70 degree day in March is not unheard of but a full week of them?  Sunny, little to no wind, blue skies, shorts weather, dry trails, ahhh, life is good for biking, running, etc.  I braved the drive across town yesterday to hit up the Dirty Bismark.  I always feel so spoiled living here.

Marshall Mesa

High Plains Trail

The downside is that we had 3 brush fires yesterday, one of them in Superior which is on the edge of where I was riding.  The fire must have started after I'd been there because I never noticed it.

I'm going to have to squander a beautiful sunny 73 degree day tomorrow because I don't think my knee can handle any more after 5 days in a row of running and biking.  Was feeling a little gimpy today, not terrible but not pain free either so a rest day is in order whether I like it or not.  I'll still go swimming but no big bike or run.  Was hoping for a 10-11 hour training week but we'll see how the knee goes.  I'm at about 6 hours just now and maybe I'll go to masters a bit early and get some extra yardage in.

Still hemming and hawing about Regionals next month but leaning towards not going.  There's an ASCA trial in Denver that weekend, less than an hour from my house that's looking mighty tempting.  I could go for one day for 3 runs in the morning, spend $30, have a fun half day of agility and still be able to go for a long bike or run on Sunday.  If I'm super serious about USDAA Nationals I should probably go to Regionals for the practice in a distracting, higher stress environment plus they're having local GP & Steeplechase rounds so 2 chances to qualify in those but SO expensive and a 7 hour drive for something I don't really have my heart in.  And I'm only going to USDAA Nationals because it's so close, it's not like it was otherwise a goal.  But still would like to do well and be prepared and qualify in the other events.  Who knows when I'll ever have an opportunity to go to USDAA Nationals again in my own backyard?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Week in Training

This week was light for triathlon training due to a weekend trial and also the need for recovery after 3 long workouts on my feet in a row.  I was aiming for 5-6 hours and came in on schedule.  If I'd scheduled things differently I could have had an extra swim practice but I'll spare you the boring logistics of why that didn't happen.  I also lost a day of training on Thursday due to trying to set up a wireless network at home.  Jonny has a non-tech savvy friend who claimed it was easy.  This is kind of like my friend who told me setting up my own website would be easy.  I knew better and told him he could set it up if it was so easy.  But in the end guess who ended up setting it up?  It's maybe easy if you know what you're doing and you don't have a cell tower gizmo thingy that you have to route things through.  I spent the day plugging and unplugging cable and booting and rebooting and calling Sprint and Comcast and getting disconnected a million times because every time I unplugged the cell phone gizmo I got disconnected.  Super fun day in clueless tech lady land let me tell you.   In the end I got it set up using my two favorite techno skills - clicking on things until it works and unplugging and plugging back in until it works.  Unfortunately I was too mentally drained and aggravated to fit in a long run on Thursday and figured it would be better to save my legs for the trial anyway.

Some biking trails are finally dried out so the goal for the next few weeks is to add in some more trails/hills to my biking and some speed drills and hills to my running.  Running is going well volume wise, I ran 7 miles yesterday which is the farthest I've been in years and no knee pain.  But I'm so painfully slow still.  Last year I was still recovering from a hamstring strain and was doing a walk/run combo so I'm way ahead of where I was but I still have a ways to go before my running is competitive again.  I'm going to try some speedwork and drills from the free training program that came with one of my Xterra entries last year.  I couldn't do those running drills back then or any speedwork so I'm going to start easing them in now and we'll see if they help.  Maybe some shorter fartlek runs too and some hill intervals.  I'm excited to try it anyway. 

I did end up entering the Xterra Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek and it's a longer, more challenging race than my other races.  Initially I didn't like the thought of the pressure of it and thought I'd wait and see what kind of shape I'm in closer to the race date.  But I'm glad I entered it early because aside from saving $20 I also now have a whole new level of urgency and motivation.  I'm going to need to get some good training in between now and July if I even want to finish the darn thing in one piece.

Swim:  2500 yards/1 hour

Mountain bike (on dirt roads and trails): 24.89 miles/2 hours, 38 mins.

Run:  7.02 miles/1 hours, 43 mins.

Total training time: 5 hours, 21 mins.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nail Biter

I had a USDAA trial this weekend, my first chance to qualify for DAM Team for Nationals.  I was also hoping to pick up another Grand Prix Q and our first Steeplechase Q.  I had great teammates and was looking forward to it, especially since I hadn't been to a trial since early January.  I like trialing and I don't do it all that often these days.  We only have 2 more opportunities to qualify for team locally and one of those is on the last possible weekend to qualify.  Agility trials are usually fun for me, these days if we have mistakes it's a dropped bar or missed contact or run-by/refusal.  I don't care about the titles and ribbons all that much so if we don't come home with a bunch of Q's because of a bobble here and there I'm o.k. with it, I'm mostly happy to get out there and run w/ Strummer.

But I'll tell you when agility trials are not so much fun.  Say for example that the tire is the first obstacle of Team Standard and your dog decides not only to break his perfect in trials start line stay but run between the frame of the obstacle, missing the tire completely, and take the next jump before your brain can even process what happened so you get a nice E for your team that had previously been doing so well.  And then he does it again for Team Relay where an E is really really really bad.  Because it's just your luck that the first obstacle for Team Relay is the tire and you didn't think to ask if you could run the other part of the course because Team Standard was a fluke.  And then just because it's really not your weekend, the next day the first obstacle for Grand Prix is the tire.  And the little stinker does it AGAIN even though you line him up perfectly and hardly lead out and really keep a good eye on him and cue him perfectly.  And just to really mess with your head, you had sent him through the very same tire in the very same ring on the first run of the day for Team Gamblers and he took it no problem and took it again a second time during Team Gamblers.  Then as if you're weekend wasn't going badly enough, you wait around for 5 1/2 hours to run Steeplechase because finally a course that doesn't start with the tire or even have a tire in it and the little stinker breaks his stay before you finish your lead out and ends up off course at the third obstacle.

Our team was still a couple teams above the line for qualifying before relay even with an E in Jumpers and Team but with my E in Relay I figured that would put us under the line.  Nonetheless I stuck around to hear the results because you never know.  I sat in the stands feeling pretty badly about things though, I hated to be the one to drag the team down.    We were in second place after Gambers which was the first run of the day and we'd stayed above the line all the way to Relay so it was a little sad to think we wouldn't make it.  When they read the results off and said our team name I couldn't believe it.  I had to ask someone if it they were reading qualifiers off or just the placements.  We ended up qualifying by just 2.5 points.  I was so relieved.  There was a team that missed qualifying by .42 of a point and I felt badly for them.  So even though it wasn't the best weekend and I have some weirdo training issues to puzzle through that I wish hadn't come up during Team and Grand Prix and I don't feel very deserving of it at least I have a Team Q and Strummer and his teammates can go to Nationals.

The other fabulous thing to come out of the weekend is that Strummer stayed sound throughout and he looks fine today so I think he's over his shoulder strain.  I'm still going to go easy on practice and we don't have a trial for sure until mid-May.  I'm still debating about going to Regionals at the end of April.  It depends on how bad his tire issue is or if it's even a tire issue.  I'm thinking it might actually be more of a start line issue though he did have a good start line for Snooker which came after his break in Standard.  He had a bad tire crash back in January but I put him through the tire right afterwards and he was fine.  Can't remember if we had a tire at the seminar, I'll have to check my videos.  And he did do the tire in the morning for Gamblers so I don't know.  I'll take him out to the field next week and see if he does it again.  It could be that it simply occurred to him that going through the frame would be faster because if he was that freaked out why not just run around it and avoid it altogether?  Such a funny, freaky dog, always keeps me guessing.  The broken start lines though, those are naughty.  That is something new as well and I can't have that.  I pulled him off the course when he broke for Team Standard, he had an E anyway but I did call him back to me and kept going in Steeplechase.  Probably not the best decision but I'd waited around for so long, I really wanted to run the course.  But I was so frustrated that my handling wasn't great and the run went badly anyway.  I suppose not being able to practice for 5 weeks didn't help things either.  Ah well, back to the practice field.

I was so happy I only signed up for 2 days.  It was beautiful today, sunny, 60's, I took the dogs for a long walk in the morning then went for a nice long trail run and cleared my head.  Then like a good junky I downloaded the premium for a second USDAA trial in May and checked out the schedule for Regionals.

He's lucky he's cute.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

All I Know is that I Don't Know Nothing

Note: This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day.

We get told to decide
Just like as if I'm not going to change my mind
-From 'Knowledge' by Operation Ivy

The topic I'm supposed to write about is, 'If I knew then what I know now' and I'll get around to that eventually but honestly more and more I'm wishing I knew now what I knew back then.  I've been doing agility for over 10 years and yet it seems I know so little now compared to what I knew back then because there's so much more information available now.  The selection of books, DVD's and online classes is overwhelming.  Different handling systems, different methods for teaching weave poles, different ways to perform contacts, even different types of courses between the venues demanding different types of handling, it's easy to feel like a deer in the headlights.  Then there are all the conditioning, stretching, bodywork type videos.  Pilates for Dogs, try explaining that DVD, or the giant rubber peanut leaning in the corner of your living room, to the normal people in your life.

When I say, 'I wish I knew now what I knew back then' I don't mean in a nostalgic, back in the good old days sort of way but rather in an embracing the beginner's mind sort of way.  The mind boggling amount of information we have these days as well as my own experience level can send me into an over analytical, narrow, jaded frame of mind where I get too far inside my head and slam the door shut on new ideas if I'm not careful.  It's necessary to have some sort of filter for all the stuff out there and maintaining consistency in training and handling is important but I also like to try to channel the spirit of that inner beginner every once in a while.

Anyway, if I do have to pick one thing that I wish I'd known about back in the day it would be a way to cue the dog to know where he's going before commitment to the prior obstacle.  By that I mean if we're turning left after a jump the dog should know about the turn before committing to the jump so he can collect and prepare for the turn before taking the jump.  I've always had fast, big strided dogs that prefer to know where they're going ahead of time so I've always puzzled over ways to accomplish this.  I had one instructor suggest using verbals to cue the obstacles ahead of time as well as a couple of simple verbal directional cues but I never had great success with that.  Once I learned how to use my motion and other cues like eye contact, location, etc. to cue where to go ahead of time then handling became so much clearer to me.  I'm far from perfect handling but at least now I have a road map and I know where I want to end up and how to get there.  Breaking old ingrained habits is hard as well, it would have been great to learn this stuff right from the start but that's the fun of a hobby-learning, unlearning, learning some more.

While it's fun to look back on our beginnings and have a laugh at our naivete it's also important to hang onto that openness, energy and enthusiasm that we had when we were starting out.  Despite the frustrations inherent in the initial learning curve it's fun to learn a new sport or activity and as long as we can hang onto that feeling we should never have to suffer burn out or stagnation.

Edited to add:  If you'd like to read more posts about this subject, go here.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Week in Training

Another good training week, especially good for running which is what I need to focus on.  Got in all the swims and runs I was hoping for.  Unfortunately no biking because Sunday's planned long ride turned into a hike due to high winds.  There was no way I was going out in that wind for 3 hours.  Instead we hiked for 3 1/4 hours at Heil Ranch where we were sheltered from the wind in the trees.  A beautiful hike, dry trails and no problem with the wind which is grating on everybody's nerves these days.  Normally I don't count hiking as part of my training but I did treat it more like a training session than a La De Da hike, moving faster than my normal stroll.  Not quite up to the level of Power Hiking but it was nearly 9 miles so I picked a good pace for that distance.  I was so sore afterwards so I decided darn it, I'm going to count it.  It's not a replacement for running or biking but right now I'm working on base building and it's great for that as well as strength so I'm counting it this time.

I did get out for a long bike today.  Beautiful 60 degree weather and it was supposed to be calm but I got about 12 miles from home on the dirt roads out east and the freight train winds started up again so I decided to bail and head home.  After a horrible slog uphill into the wind for miles, just as I got to the end of the big hill, the winds died.  So I took a longer route home on some trails.  After today this will be a step back week.  I have an agility trial this weekend and it's USDAA Team so I'd like to not be exhausted and try to qualify for Nat's. and do a good job for the team.

Strum had another great week of no limping.  I alternated 2 mile runs, 3 mile walks and recovery 2 mile walks and he did great.  On Sunday I put him over some single jumps and a set of 6 weaves in my yard and he had no problems.  No limping afterwards so far.  He was so excited to play with his toys.  The big challenge this weekend will be to keep him from going crazy when he finally gets to play.  I'll take him to the practice field this week for a very short practice to get him on the equipment and get those agility muscles moving but he'll have an easy week as well.  Right now I'm convinced all he had was a simple strain like the vet suggested and he just needed some time to rest.  Going forward I'm going to be careful about how many runs he does in a day at trials and limit his training even more than I already do so hopefully it won't recur.  Unfortunately he has 4 1/2 classes on Friday for Team but there's not much I can do about that.  I pulled him from all his titling runs so he only has Grand Prix and Steeplechase on Saturday and no runs on Sunday.  I'd love to get out of Novice but for now qualifying for Nat's. takes priority.

Swim:  6750 yards/3 hours

Mountain bike:  None

Run:  13.99 miles/3 hours, 20 mins.

Hiking:  8.7 miles/3 hours, 15 mins.

Total training time: 9 hours, 35 mins. (3 hours 15 mins. of which are hiking - Heil Ranch)