Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Interesting Drama on Trial Morning and Some GoPro Footage

Some interesting drama this morning while trying to leave for the USDAA trial this morning.  It was cold last night, about 18 degrees F, and we got about an inch of snow.  The roads looked o.k. though so I thought I'd be fine as long as I left early.  It was pitch black outside and when I opened the door Strummer refused to leave the house.  In fact he retreated farther into the house.  Which is beyond bizarre because Strummer loves agility mornings and is normally practically knocking me over to get to the garage.  I was worried - was he injured, had a bad experience yesterday that I didn't notice, had I stressed him out somehow?  We'd had a pretty good day and I always tell him he's awesome when he leaves the ring and he seemed happy yesterday.  But he's a weird dog, prone to strange inexplicable behavior like trashing the kitchen the other day because who knows why?  We were gone a whopping 20 minutes and I leave him alone all the time.

I finally managed to coax him into the yard and I proceeded into the garage and loaded a few things into the car then noticed he hadn't followed me.  In fact he'd remained frozen a few feet away from the door, utterly refusing to move.  I went over to him and tried to get him to move and he growled his unhappiness at me but finally followed me into the garage.

I worried throughout the day and watched for any sign of injury or stress but he seemed fine.  I made sure he got extra good warm-ups and cool downs and that I spent some extra time with him.  Totally normal agility day.  Even a little more calm and normal than yesterday.

When it was time to leave I checked my phone and there was a voice mail from Jonny for me to call him which is unusual and I worried something was wrong.  I called and called but he had his ringer off because, well, who knows.  I came home and found a business card from the police with a case number on it but nothing else and he was going to be gone for another 1 3/4 hours.  Super fun worrying what was going on and why there were cops involved.  His car looked fine so it wasn't an accident.

Finally he came home and it turned out someone had started a fire in a small sheltered space next to our garage and backyard fence.

Our psycho next door neighbor has big stacks of wood stored in her driveway and in fact she'd tried storing the piles on the piece of our land where I was standing to take this picture without asking me first and she completely blew her stack when I told her I wasn't comfortable with that arrangement.  I think she has some hoarding issues and I don't want her to start piling her crap in my yard, especially without asking me.  Anyway, the likely scenario is that some homeless people took the wood and started a fire to stay warm in that little sheltered area between our houses and Strummer smelled the fire and/or the people who might have been still sleeping there and it freaked him out.  Poor guy, I should trust his instincts more often.  I never noticed the people when I pulled out of the driveway but it was so dark and I was more worried out what was in the road and the icy street.  The cops said they'd drive by more in the next few days and we'll check the area.  I may put a motion detector light as well.  I don't want people lighting my fence and/or house on fire or leaving human waste.  Haven't checked for that yet.

Anyway, the trial was fun.  Courses were interesting and challenging.  Strum had some nice parts to his runs and some stuff we need to work on.  He won Round 1 of Steeplechase and I filmed his run with my new GoPro camera set to the superwide view setting.

It might not look the best on YouTube but on my big monitor at home it looks great.  I zoomed in a bit with editing software but still it's hard to see the back end of the course on YouTube.  Next trial is in an arena with bleachers and I think it'll look a lot better.  I've become obsessed with the idea of getting a remote controlled quadcopter to film aerial footage from above (not indoors obviously) but that may be going a bit far.  My friend has one on order and I'm going to wait to see how hers works, how hard it is to learn to fly, etc.  I know, just what I need, one more ultra geeky beyond nerdy hobby.

I'm thinking about moving Strummer to Performance so he can jump 16".  There was nothing about his performance at the trial that has me thinking that way, just had a few people at the trial put the idea in my head when I mentioned how old he was.  He's looking pretty grey in the muzzle these days too.  I know he's old in numbers but it's hard to think of him as old.  He's not struggling with the jumps or anything and hasn't slowed down as you can see from the video but I don't want to wait until he's struggling.  I've already entered trials in Jan. and Feb. but his 9th birthday is in March and I think his present will be to move down to P16 for the March USDAA trial.  I'll see how he does in practice at that height before I make a final decision but so far I think it's a good idea.

No trial stats for the moment, they all flew right out of my head but I know he missed 2/2 dogwalks, got almost all his weavepole entries but popped out of the weaves on an easy Steeplechase Finals course and took 6 tries to finally get them right.  Big Le Sigh.  Was an otherwise awesome run.

Ah well, this dog has been an interesting journey.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Strummervision! - Fun With GoPro

Finally got my new GoPro camera and shot some quick footage the other day.  Didn't spend a lot of time planning things, just set up a tripod and shot for not even 2 minutes.  Light was terrible and snow is always challenging.  Spent more time with the post editing software than I did shooting video but the preliminary results are pretty good.

Strummervision - Fun with GoPro from colliebrains on Vimeo.

The camera has an extra wide angle setting and that's what I used here because it's the default but the last clip is the only one showing the wide angle.  GoPro's editing software has a zoom/crop function and I used it on all the other clips.  The first and last clips are the only ones not edited except for slo-mo (and zoom/crop on the first clip).  I played around with different settings on all the other clips and you can see the difference in the color of the snow, sharpness, etc.  The original footage was atrocious as far as the lighting goes, couldn't see the expression on Strummer's face at all.  It's amazing how much it improved with some quick, simple editing.  I'm hoping this means the end of craptastic video from now on.

The camera is mostly meant to be a hands free camera for shooting action footage like while mountain biking, skiing, etc. and I can use it underwater to film myself swimming so it'll have a lot more use to me than agility.  Plus the good low light capability, super wide angle lens and remote control should make it easy for me to film myself at trials without having to pester other people to film me or leaving my camera running and having tons of footage to edit.  Looking forward to seeing how it'll work.

This thing is like a Barbie doll for grown ups because there are zillions of accessories you can buy for this thing.  All manner of mounts and hooks and clips and whatnot.  Very clever marketing.  I've got a couple few mounts on order, didn't go too crazy and found some made by companies other than GoPro at a big cost savings and they still got good reviews.  Not a big fan of having to figure out all this Stuff to buy but I think the camera's going to be a lot of fun and I have a few ideas for some fun video projects.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Arctic Cold, Hot Tamales and a Little DOCNA

I suppose the week and a half of single digit high temps. with -12 wind chill is news to no one so I wont' dwell too much on that.  In general the cold doesn't bother me that much but a week and a half?  And you know it's cold when your wattle bottle explodes in your hand as it did on Saturday morning while I had breakfast in the car before the DOCNA trial.

My first thought was, 'Wow, that was so cool.'  My second thought was, 'Darn it, my underwear is wet and I have to spend the day in a cold horse arena.'  As was my pants and my running tights underneath my pants.  Strangely enough this is not the first time I've had wet pants at an agility trial (went hiking in the rain at Devil's Tower during some down time at NADAC Champs) so I knew what to do.  Hit up the hand dryers in the bathroom and thankfully the hand dryers at Boulder County Fairgrounds are super sonic rocket powered, the kind that dry your hands in 3 seconds.  Also thankfully this was a small trial so I didn't have to explain to too many people why I was holding my undies under the hand dryer.  Crisis was averted and I spent the day being grateful for dry drawers.

Despite the single digit temps. outside the arena was heated and not too bad inside.  Not toasty warm but I was fine in my many warm layers, was even o.k. scribing with no gloves.  Strummer was very glad to have a place to stretch his legs out since the most we'd been able to manage in the past week of -12 wind chill were some short 40 minutes leash runs in his much hated coat and booties.  I was happy to get out of the house as well, I think we were all going a little stir crazy.

I only signed up for 3 runs per day - Gamblers, Standard and the NAC (Grand Prix type class) - so my days were short, done by noon both days which was perfect.  Enough to be fun but not so much that I was dragged out tired at the end of the weekend.

Lots of nice stuff from Strummer but every run but one seemed to have some small glitch - a knocked bar on one standard run, a missed dogwalk on another.  Some run-bys and refusals and another of the dreaded 'run across my feet after the A-frame' moments that were all caused by me being behind.  Not sure why I was behind, maybe Strum was going faster than normal due to the cold.  I got video of 2 runs, our one clean Standard run and the NAC which had an off course tunnel again due to me being behind and a knocked bar.

DOCNA Standard and NAC Runs Dec 7 2013 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

That 180 degree turn to the tunnel off the dogwalk was especially happy making for me.  That particular turn is often a challenge for us.

This should be the last of the crappy Flip video, my new GoPro camera came yesterday.  I shot some quick test footage of the dogs in the yard and it was awesome quality, can't wait to play around with it.  It was funny, I handed my Flip to someone to tape me at the trial and she said, 'A Flip camera?!'  I know, I'm so Old School but I'm finally moving on.

Chipping away at his Champ title,  just 2 Standard Q's left.  Mathematically it was possible to have gotten it this past weekend and I tried to use that as motivation to get myself a little wound up because I do better with a bit of pressure but I can't say I felt any different.  Can't get too excited about titles especially when I know we'll get it eventually.  I like running in DOCNA because Strummer loves to stretch out and run and there is some challenge in trying to keep up because I haven't trained any distance cues but the courses aren't very technically challenging.  Saturday's Standard and NAC courses were at least a little bit interesting but Sunday's Standards were back to the old pinwheels and tunnel flips.  Didn't enter any Jumpers runs and will continue not to enter them until I see some interesting courses start to pop up.

Best part of this trial though is the indoor Farmer's Market in an adjacent building.  Came home with red butter lettuce for me, goat bones for the dogs and the most awesomest tamales ever.  Got some extra for the freezer.  I'll need something to keep me warm if this winter is going to as long and cold as it's starting out.

Final Stats

Specialist Standard Saturday Q-1st place

1Q, 6 classes (2 Gamblers, 3 Standard, 1 NAC)


6/10 (60%)


7/7  (100%)


6/6- 100%

Weave pole entries

7/7? (100%), no pop-outs,  I don't think he missed a weave entry, maybe one in one of his Gamblers runs but I don't think so,  yee ha if I'm remembering it correctly because it'll be the first time ever with 100% and no pop-outs on the weave poles

Bars down = 2

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Horse Whispering - Mastering Your Mental Game

I love writing about the mental aspect of sports - it is my profession and my passion.  I specialize in sports hypnosis and I help a lot of people learn how to manage the mental side of their sport.  The mind is a powerful and fascinating enigma and I learn new things about it all the time.

I like the analogy of the conscious/subconscious parts of our minds being like a jockey and a horse (I fully admit this idea came from another hypnotist but I like it so much I'm going to use it here).  Our conscious mind is like a jockey, making rational, logical decisions about how to guide the horse around the race track.  We like to think that the jockey is in control but the reality is that not so much.  The horse of course is the subconscious part of our mind and it's the one who's really in control.  It goes around the track because it wants to not because the jockey tells it to.  The jockey may encourage and guide it and have the illusion of control but in the end the horse has the final say.  And sometimes the horse chooses to defy the jockey.  Maybe it develops a fear at a certain part of the racetrack, stopping in its tracks and rearing up, refusing to go any further and the jockey has no idea why because up until today the horse went around that corner of the track without batting an eye.  Maybe the jockey communicates poorly or is abusive and the horse decides it's had enough.  Or the jockey is afraid and passes his fears onto the horse.  Perhaps the jockey is doing everything right but the horse still won't perform for whatever unknown reason.  And while it's important to work on the jockey's skills, the key to it all is working with the horse.

There are interesting studies of elite professional baseball hitters that show that the key to their success is not their reflexes, which are average or in some cases below average, but rather their ability to anticipate where the ball will go.  They're subconsciously able to read the body language of the pitcher, anticipate where the ball will go and thus prepare for the hit well in advance of the ball reaching them.  The process is completely automatic, the hitters don't even realize they're doing it.  I suspect those handlers that move like poetry in motion with their dogs are doing the same thing.  And our dogs do this as well, sometimes not to our advantage when they anticipate the wrong thing.  But how do you build this automatic, subconscious skill if it doesn't come naturally?  It's all about working with the horse.

So how do we talk to the horse?  Well, there are lots of ways and it depends on the person but with practice it's easy to do.  It's all about getting your mind in a relaxed drifty state so that it's very open to suggestion, conscious defenses and self-limiting beliefs fade away, and we can go in and make suggestions to the horse, create some new, better self-beliefs, restore the horse's faith in the jockey, calm the horse's fears.  In a clinical office setting this is easy and once you've experienced it it becomes easier each time and you can learn to do it for yourself.  However there are some techniques you can do on your own.  One thing you can do is to focus on your breathing.  Close your eyes and start to pay attention to your breathing, no right way or wrong way to be breathing but rather just focusing your mind on the way your breathing feels.  Noticing the way it feels and sounds when the air enters your nostrils.  Noticing how it feels as the air fills your lungs, noticing that place where the breath turns around and the feeling of your lungs emptying out, the sound of the air leaving your nostrils.  After several breaths you probably notice your heart rate slowing a bit, your breathing becoming heavier and more relaxed and your mind starting to relax and letting go.  You feel yourself only in the present moment, thoughts of the past and future drifting away.  And then maybe you can start to imagine going through a particular sequence with your dog, every handling move perfectly timed and the dog responding easily, with plenty of time to react.  Or perhaps you imagine yourself stepping into the ring and up to the start line brimming with confidence, those chemicals that used to make you nervous and give you butterflies in your stomach now making you feel excited and energized instead.

Getting excited rather than nervous about the mass swim start at Xterra Off-Road Triathlon Nationals.

The Light Switch Technique is another method I use to teach my clients self-hypnosis .  The following is the handout I give to clients that explains the technique.  It's easier to do if you've already been formally hypnotized in a clinical setting but still you can get the idea.


Light Switch Technique

When you’re first learning self-hypnosis, do this 5 times a day for about a minute.  You can leave sticky notes around your house/work/school to remind you to practice.

1.  Place your finger up as if on a light switch in the ‘on’ position.
2.  Move you finger downward as if flicking off a light switch and close your eyes at the same time.
3.  Put yourself into hypnosis by counting yourself down a staircase of 10 stairs to a special place where you feel safe, comfortable and relaxed.
4.  When you’re first starting off you can spend the minute putting yourself in hypnosis and enjoying your special place.  Eventually you should be able to put yourself into a nice relaxed state more quickly and you can use the remaining time to give yourself positive suggestions.
5.  There are 2 rules for the suggestions.  They must be positive and they must be for something you want rather than for something you don’t want.
6.  At the end of the minute, move your finger up as if turning the light switch back on and open your eyes at the same time.

You can do longer sessions eventually if you like but when you’re first learning it’s better to do more short sessions rather than fewer longer sessions.


There are things that the jockey can do as well.  Telling the horse how awesome he is is perhaps the most important thing the jockey can do.  Smacking the horse with a whip and telling him how much he sucks is not going to help the horse have faith in the jockey.  So be mindful of the negative self talk.  Reframe it to positive self talk.  Fake and pretend if you have to.  Eventually the horse will start believing it and so will the jockey.  Look at failures as learning opportunities rather than reasons to smack the horse with the whip.

Another thing the jockey can do is not absorb other people's negative emotions at a trial.  Trials are full of all sorts of different people with different ideas of what is the best way to make it through the day.  They're not trying to irritate you or purposely screw up your day, they're just going through their day with their own version of the world and this will not always line up with yours.  Anybody who's been to more than 2 dog trials knows that at some point somebody is going to do something or say something that pisses you off.  Being angry or irritated at some stupid thing that someone did is not going to help the horse.  And if someone is having a bad day and intentionally spreading around their unpleasantness, well, it doesn't mean you have to buy into it.  Just because someone throws crap at you doesn't mean you have to catch it and put it in your pocket.

And perhaps most importantly of all, make sure to take time before your run to connect with your dog.  It's so easy to lose sight of our partner in the chaos of waiting our turn to go into the ring but it's so important to put all the other mental techniques aside and spend that mental energy on connecting with our bestest buddy before going into the ring.  It helps prepare your dog mentally because his mental preparation is important too but it also reminds us of that special bond we have and what is really important here.  In the grand scheme of things our time with our dogs is so fleeting and special, it's good to take those few moments to look into our dog's eyes and remember to savor every run.

If anybody has any questions about anything or would like to see more posts on this subject leave a note in the comments sections and I'll be happy to answer questions and entertain other posts.  And if anybody is interested in exploring sports hypnosis my website is:   I'm happy to answer more involved questions via phone and I do Skype sessions as well.

 This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day.  Go here to read more posts on the topic.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Xterra Nationals Video Highlights

Another cheap thrill of having a cameo appearance in the Highlights video for this year's Xterra Nationals.  I like how everybody else looks serious and focused and intent and I look sort of . . . confused.  Or something.

I appear pulling on the sleeve of my wetsuit in transition at the 25-26 second mark for about a second.  At least they didn't show the part a few seconds later where I started swinging my arms around to warm up and smacked a guy walking past in the head, sending his glasses flying.  Felt bad about that.  There's also some good footage of the mass swim start.  Not as crazy as an Ironman start but still gives you an idea of the chaos involved.  The folks in yellow caps are the age groupers, the blue and pink caps are the pros and they had a much smaller field and a head start.

Waffling a bit about my goals for next year.  Usually by this time I'm somewhat decided and already getting excited but right now I feel tired.  Probably because I'm at the tail of an unpleasant souvenir of sickness that Jonny brought back with him from his plane ride home from Scotland and I'm feeling a bit dragged out.  I did renew my USAT membership (sanctioning body for Xterra and most races) so I guess I have to do at least 4 Xterras to make that $45 fee worth it.  USAT is such a racket but unfortunately they sanction most races so if I want to race I have to pay their blood money.

There's a new Xterra this year near Aspen on private land that I'm kind of excited about.  Supposed to have some artificial obstacles, wood bridges or something.  The land is owned by a mountain bike enthusiast who built a bunch of trails and features so it's an interesting and unique opportunity.  Will have to start hitting up the Boulder bike park for practice.  Supposedly it's intermediate level challenges, easier than Curt Gowdy and I survived Curt Gowdy so I should be able to handle this.  Sounds like a fun new challenge to try.   I'll probably also do Xterra Lory, Xterra Buffalo Creek and, yeah, probably Nationals again.  I'd like to try an out of town Xterra not because I enjoy traveling but because I'd like to try something new.  We'll see if I can get over my dislike of driving enough to go somewhere new.  Would love to do one of the Xterra Epic races which are much longer versions of a regular Xterra but the closest one is a 15-16 hour drive in Arkansas.  There's one in Marquette, MI that I might consider flying to, could combine it with a trip to visit my aunt but I'm not sure how technical the trails are and wow, that sounds like a lot of money and hassle for a race.

Not sure about dog goals either.  Strum will be 9 next March and though he's still going strong he's also at that point where you never know what will happen so for now we enjoy our runs in the moment and that's it.  Can't be bothered going after an ADCH and the nice thing about that is that I don't feel obligated to enter every run that's offered.  Yay for not staying late for Pairs at the end of day or getting up at the crack of dark for Gamblers.  I like the Masters Challenge courses so we'll focus on those.  And Steeplechase!  Whee ha, Strummer's favorite class.  Not going to Nationals this year so no point blowing money on Grand Prix though I may enter one here or there in a half assed attempt to qualify for Regionals which is only 45 minutes away this year.  But yikes, what a price tag to enter Grand Prix at Regionals especially if I have not intention of going to Nat's.  Maybe if I can get a bye and thus a guarantee of 2 runs.  Strum is fast enough to win a bye if we can run clean but it's not something at the top of my goal list.

Not going to get another dog anytime soon, at least I hope not in the sense that one of my current dogs would have to pass away before I'd get another and I don't want that to happen.  I like having 2 dogs, a good sane number.  I like the energy of it and the ease of it and I feel like I can give them each a lot more attention plus Strummer counts for at least 2-3 dogs so I'm happy not to have any more right now.

Hopefully once the fog and energy drain of my cold clears I'll be feeling a bit more motivated.  Also I'm hoping to get  a new GoPro video camera in the next few weeks/months and I've got some ideas for video projects that have been on the back burner for forever so that should be an interesting new challenge and hopefully will provide some entertaining video.

USDAA trial this weekend, indoors on the fun rubber flooring.  Strummer will be off his head.  Should be fun.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

FRAT DOCNA November 2013

I know, very creative post title.  A quickie recap of the trial since I didn't do anything for the last 2 USDAA trials.  In general, more boring easy courses, picked up a Q in just about every event, we're now just 3 Standard Q's away from his MEX (Champ title in DOCNA).  Best part of the trial was that he missed the first 2 dogwalks of the trial and got every one after that (7/9=78%), beautiful hits, I practically wept after each one since the last 2 trials were Nightmare on Dogwalk Street.  Part of the success was because I experimented with managing the down ramp a bit by turning into him and decelerating as he approached and came down the down ramp.  I know, I know, NOT what you're supposed to do but I'm that desperate for some dogwalk success in the ring.  He's 8 1/2 years old and training seems to have little impact.  I am going to work through some things from Silvia's video on running contacts but it's so not on the top of my to do list at the moment.  Won't always be able to manage it of course, it's a band-aid fix for the moment and also helps get some success that I can mark in the ring.

We also got our Nationals qualifier for next year.  Nat's. is in Grand Junction and it's the weekend after Xterra Nationals so technically I could do both but we'll see.  Not sure I want to drive 4 1/2 hours for a bunch of boring pinwheels.  But at least I know I can go if I want.  Not sure about Xterra Nat's. either.  Oh, who am I kidding?  But that debate is for another post.

Got some video, I'll post a couple of runs.

Standard, Q and 1st place

Jumpers, Q and 1st place, 6.11 yps

FRAT DOCNA Specialist Jumpers from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I know, Nightmare on Pinwheel Street.  I hadn't entered Jumpers for this trial but they were taking 'day of' entries and since they were running Jumpers in another ring throughout the day I thought what the heck.  Strummer had fun though the course was annoying.

I've got a couple of USDAA trials coming up and another DOCNA trial in a few weeks but mostly I'm looking forward to a Rosanne DeMascio seminar this weekend.  I'm not in charge of the seminar this time which is a relief though to be honest it wasn't that big of a deal.  Still, happy to be able to show up and run without worrying about anything else.  Only doing one day, a four hour session of International Handling and 4 hours of jumping.  Really really enjoyed her last time she was here and excited for the weekend.  Going on a 'flood tour' on Sunday of some flood damaged open space areas that are still closed to the public and will remain so for the long term.  Should be interesting.

Final Stats

Specialist Standard Saturday Q-1st place

Specialist North America Challenge Saturday Q - 2nd place (knocked a bar)

Specialist Traditional Gamblers Saturday Q - 1st place

Specialist Jumpers Sunday Q-1st place, 6.11 yps

No titles that I'm aware of.

4 Q's, 7 classes


7/9 (78%)


6/8 (75%)


5/5- 100%

Weave pole entries

3/8 (38%), no pop-outs

Bars down = 2

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Flood Damage at Chautauqua

Beautiful day for hike to check out the flood damage at Chautauqua.  Hard to get my brain around it.

Enchanted Mesa Trail just up from the auditorium. 

Somehow the stone bridge survived.  There used to be solid trees between the creek bed and the trail.  Looks so weird to me without them.

Can't imagine what it must have sounded like when all that rock came crashing down.

Trail to nowhere.  The logs scattered around used to form the steps of the old trail.

The huge boulder on the trail must have come from up above to the right.

Closer view of the boulder.

And looking up at the area that it probably came from.

It was a beautiful day with little splashes of color here and there.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

I've been too busy with other projects to post here but I couldn't let Halloween go by without a quick post.  One of my favorite holidays.

Me and my Skelly Friend.  He's got a new head for the holidays but they didn't carve it this time.

My neighbor always has a Skelly display in his cool old vintage Ford truck starting at Halloween and going on through to Mardi Gras (or maybe even St. Patrick's Day?), a different tableau for each holiday.  I'll try to get photos for each holiday this year.

 A wider view showing the cool old truck.

One year we had 4' of snow on the ground all winter and the snow had drifted almost as high as the window of the truck.  The Christmas display had Skelly in a Santa suit driving the truck and it looked for all the world like Santa had gotten stuck in the snow and frozen to death and withered away to bones.  It made me laugh all winter long.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dog Lollies

Lola had to go to the vet yesterday so she got a nice pig ear for being a good girl.

She tore her ACL for keeps last spring and after much agonizing and debating we decided to treat her conservatively rather than go through surgery.  She'll be 13 in December and doesn't tolerate anesthesia and pain killers very well.  She had a cortisone injection into her shoulder for bicep tendonitis many years ago and I swore I'd never do that to her again.  Until I did.

She was doing really well up until the flood.  Scar tissue had formed and the joint was stabilizing.  She was at a point that she'd be at roughly 3 months after surgery if she had had it.  Then something happened and I'm not sure what.  The first night we spent with friends when we evacuated from the flood she was struggling to walk.  I put it down to their hardwood floors which she's not used to.  I'm not sure if she re-injured the knee trying to walk on the floors or if it was all the extra walking she had to do since we had to walk her every time she went out rather than just send her to the yard or whether she'd done something earlier and all of that exacerbated it or what.  In any case, after the dust cleared from the flood I noticed she wasn't tolerating walking nearly as well as she had been.  Got tired quicker, started walking funny sooner.  When I finally had the vet come last week to give her a laser treatment she told me the knee was back to square one, scar tissue was gone, joint was unstable again.  Big Le Sigh.

So I finally agreed to some experimental injections that my vet friend recommended.  This involved a much dreaded drive up to Wellington which I always think of as being near enough the Wyoming border but it's not quite and only took me about an hour 5 minutes rather than the anticipated 1 hour 20 minutes.  Anyway, I spent the morning doing breakfast and coffee and shopping in Fort Collins while poor Miss Lola endured anesthesia, pain killers and 2 injections into her knee.  I felt like a traitor when I left her but I so don't want to put her through surgery and I can't stand to let her linger as she is.  She's depressed not being able to run and only getting leash walks.  One injection was a steriod, the other some kind of joint lubricant.  If she's not better in 6 months we can try some kind of platelet injection.  Hopefully it won't come to that.

Poor girl is whiny and fussy today.  Not sure if she's in pain or she's anxious from the procedure or still coming off the meds or a combo of all 3 and I'm hoping the pig ear will cheer her up.

In other news I finally went out to the practice field to get Strummer on some contact equipment.  Our last trial was a dogwalk and weavepole disaster and this has become too much of a theme.  There was a naughty teeter or two as well and he even missed some A-frames.  You know you need to something when the judge stops judging your Standard run early on because it's already headed so far south and then asks you, during your run, how old your youngster is and you have to reply, '8 1/2 years old'.  I had to laugh because what else can you do at that point?  He was pretty good at practice today though, worked on weave poles, teeter, a short jump exercise and of course the dogwalk.  That was a bit more iffy even with the stride regulator.  I ponied up the money for a running contact DVD from Silvia Trkman and in just the first 1/2 hour there was a lot of good stuff to think about.  There was nothing like this when I started my training so there's quite a bit I had never considered.  Only trouble is she uses a thrown toy as part of the training and I hate throwing toys for the dogs to chase.  See above as to why.  It's a great way to get an ACL tear either from chronic overuse or an acute injury.  Either way I'm not sure there's a way to modify her training to avoid this.  I had used either a remote treat dispensing gizmo or a stationary toy on the ground.  I did a little bit of experimenting with throwing years later but not much, again because I think it's risky for them physically especially if you have a dog that slams on the brakes to get the toy.  Ugh, makes me cringe just thinking about it.  I shot some footage today of him just running chasing a moving toy and after 4 reps I had to stop and I was making a terrible face as I returned to the video camera to turn it off, grimacing and muttering bad words to myself.  I may do a separate post once I process the video and think about it terms of what I now know or maybe I'll spare you all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gimme the Rain

We're guaranteed never to flood again because guess what finally came today?

For the first time since I was like 4 years old I have my very own pair of rubber rain boots.  Dig the groovy color and pattern and paw prints.  Rain boots have come a long way since I was 4 years old.

Strummer sez 'pffflbbt' to my rain boots, just throw the ball.  Now.  Please??!!

Of course these came just in time for me to be nearly done with the mud mucking around my house.  There's still some cleaning to be done but I sure could have used these last week.  And the couple few weeks before.  But oh well, I have them now.  Not that I'll be heart broken if I don't get any use out of them.  Look how green my grass is.  In the middle of October!!!  Yeah, it's gonna be a long time until I find the sound of rain to be soothing again.

Lola enjoying some fall colors.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Come Hell or High Water - Xterra Nationals 2013


Swim course distance: 1,500-meters advertised (0.93 miles) Combines two 750-meter laps (no run in-between), course was long, probably 2100 meters/2297 yards according to one pro
Elevation at Port Ramp Marina for swim start:  4,900-feet
Water temperature: Probably around 67 degrees
Mountain bike course distance: 28-kilometers (17.7 miles)
Total climbing on bike: 3,400-feet
Elevation at highest point: 7,300-feet (where Sardine Peak Trail meets the ridgeline)
Elevation at T2/Snowbasin Resort Lodge: 6,400-feet
Trail Run course distance: 10-kilometers (6.2 miles)
Total climbing on run: 700-feet
Total climbing on course: 4,100-feet

Well, I made it to Nationals this year.  Just.  Between losing my grandmother and Cody and dealing with the flood all in the space of a month or so I was wondering if I should go at all.  I got my car Thursday afternoon before the race and that in itself was an adventure, trying to navigate the Boulder Creek path on my bike to get to the car dealership.  There was much hike-a-biking through big piles of mud and flood waters and eventually I had to leave the path and cut through a condo parking lot because I turned a corner and was faced with  a raging river covering the creek path.  Anyway.  We drove up Friday for and the race was Saturday.  The 7 1/2 hour drive took around 9 1/2 hours with all the stops for dogs and caffeine deprived husbands.  And I may have expressed a desire for lunch at some point.  Actually the dogs were easy, the humans were the ones who couldn't seem to sit still for longer than 2 hours at a stretch.  Highway driving makes me dizzy and sometimes queasy and I like to have a day or two to decompress before a race never mind pre-ride the course but oh well, at least I got to go.  Because of the flood I'd been unable to do much training in the 2 weeks before the race.  A couple of short easy runs here, an easy swim or two there, no biking at all.  Extreme Tapering.  And mentally the last thing on my mind until Tuesday or Wednesday or so was the race.  I'd adjusted my goals to simply finishing and enjoying the trails as best I could.

It was a perfect race morning in T1 once again.  All my races this year have had stellar weather.

Having Jonny there this year was a huge help.  We got to T1 plenty early, I got a great spot for my bike then he drove me up to Snowbasin to set up T2 then drove me back down to T1.  Didn't have to worry about catching a shuttle or worrying about taking enough warm clothes back to T1 to wear while waiting for the start.  It was chilly before the start, I was happy to be able to wait in the car.

But the sun finally started letting loose some warmth and the swim start was glorious.  At the pre-race talk the night before the race director said the water was 61 degrees which is super cold and uncharacteristic.  Usually water temps for this race are around 65-67 degrees and last year was probably around 64-65.  I was not thrilled with this news but I had neoprene socks and skull cap with me so I bundled up and hoped for the best.  Turned out the water was warmer than last year, probably around 67 degrees.  I was a bit overdressed but it was o.k.

As you can see by the guy standing to the right of me, I wasn't the only one overdressed.




Last year I positioned myself far to the right of the field, in line with that first yellow buoy.  I was mostly fine for the first leg of the swim then got caught in the crush of a traffic jam at the first turn buoy.  So this year I tried a different strategy and started far to the left, probably out of view of this picture.  It meant swimming farther but I figured it would be worth it if I had a clear path.  I did not have a clear path.  It was a lot of chaos as we bunched together heading for the buoy.  And as you can see there was so much glare and the first buoy was so far out you could barely even see it from shore.  I can't even see it in this photo.  I started to feel a surge of panic as I got caught up in the flailing crowd but I quickly turned that around and was fine mentally for the whole swim.  I got slapped a few times and had some people swimming into me but nothing major.  I drafted as best I could, followed the crowd as best I could in the glare and eventually after what seemed like forever I caught sight of the first buoy.  The second buoy came more quickly and after that turn the crowd was reasonable and I found some feet to draft off of.

The second lap was uneventful, had the same problem of glare but jumped from feet to feet so I had some draft but ended up on my own for the last stretch of the swim.  The water was a bit choppy and wavy but still I thought I was having a fairly strong swim so I was surprised and a bit disappointed to see 47:23 on my watch as I exited the water.  My time last year was 39:10 and the swim was long!  But I had to leave the disappointment behind, I still had a huge day ahead of me.  What I didn't know was that the swim was even longer than last year, around 2100 meters/2297 yards by one pro's estimation, which put my pace at 2:04 mins/100 yards.  Not great but not horrible considering the choppy water and the extra yardage I swam being so far to the left at the start.  And that yardage is an estimation, the course could have been even longer.

The run to T1 felt faster and easier this year.  I put some flip flops off to the side but the crowd was so thick I had a hard time finding them at first.  Next year I'll leave them in a more obvious place rather than some random location.  Ummmm, did I just say, 'next year'??!!

T1 went much quicker this year, I was better organized and more focused and I knew I didn't need to put on an extra fleece for the bike.  Time was 5:01 for T1 + run from beach (2:53 for T1 only) compared to 6:37 for last year.

Leaving T1

The Bike.  Ah, The Bike.  What can I say about The Bike?  It started out o.k., I was a bit queasy from the choppy, chaotic swim and I'd probably put more effort into the swim than I'd realized.  The long drive the day before didn't help either.  But after Buffalo Creek a few weeks ago I remembered not to take any gel until my stomach had settle despite the mile or so flat-ish stretch before the climb up Wheeler Canyon.  Trouble is my stomach never settled all that much.  I felt o.k., good even, better than last year going up Wheeler Canyon and once I got out I think is when I had some gel.  But somehow I didn't remember a relentless climb after that.  But there it was.   A steepish, long climb that went on and on and ON.  I knew it reached a downhill eventually so there was a bit of recovery before the next long climb up Sardine Peak but it took much longer than I was expecting and at some point I started wondering if I'd be able to finish.  If I'd even make it through the bike.  I felt weak and dizzy and queasy.  No way I could eat any more, I knew that would be a huge mistake.  But I slogged on and eventually reached the downhill. 

Which was the most horrible part of the race because this is where the fast folks from the sprint race caught up to us slower folk doing twice the distance.  And these guys/women were awful about passing.  The race director warned them to be nice in the pre-race talk but these folks either weren't there and/or didn't care.  These are locals who came out for a short sprint race and they were interfering with those of us who had trained and raced all year to qualify and traveled a long distance to be there.  They were even more rude than last year and one guy even crashed into me trying to pass me on a narrow stretch of downhill single track.  I managed to stop and catch myself without falling but he went over the handlebars, got up and kept going without so much as an apology never mind making sure I was o.k.  I had people yelling nasty things at me.  So obnoxious.  If I don't go back next year this will be why.  I wish they'd do away with the extra races entirely and only have the Nationals event.

Anyway, in retrospect I could have bailed before Sardine Peak and ended my day with the Sprint Racers but I was so happy to be rid of them when the turn-off came that it didn't even occur to me.  There was a guy from the 50 or 55 age group behind me who was equally as rattled and we both heaved a sigh of relief at the turn-off.  I paced him for a while then he passed me as I started to fade even more on the climb up Sardine Peak.  I tried to get some food down at the bottom of the climb but there was no way.  All I had for the whole nearly 5 1/2 hour race was 1 1/2 gels, about 150 calories.  Not sure how I did it.  But I did.  And I even passed someone from my age group near the top of Sardine Peak.  I couldn't believe it but there was someone in my age group struggling as much as me.  This was not a huge incentive, I had no goals regarding placements, I was going to be thrilled to have enough in me to finish but still I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling good to think I might not place dead last in my age group.  She passed me on the downhill but there wasn't downhill and still a bit of climbing before the bike ended and I wondered if I might pass her back on the last few climbs.

I felt much better after having some time to recover on the descent down Sardine Peak and the last bit of climbing on the bike felt o.k.

Final descent into Snow Basin.

As bad as I felt my bike was still 10 seconds faster than last year.  Not the 10-20 minutes improvement I was hoping for but at least I wasn't longer.  And I did it despite feeling not so great.  Time was 2:59:20.

I never caught the other woman on the bike but I saw her in T2 and I started the run ahead of her.

There's a terrible steep mile long hill at the start that most people walk up.  This is the bottom of it and I'll confess I only ran long enough for Jonny to take a picture.

Despite feeling bad on the bike and not being able to take in any food and temps. being hotter than last year I felt much better on the run.  Perhaps it was simply a matter of knowing the course a little better but I swear the hills didn't feel as steep or as long.  Somehow I managed to enjoy the run this year.

The final descent.

One of many many steep switchbacks near the end.  This one's not too steep.

I never heard the woman from my age group coming up behind me but I'll admit the thought of her behind me was a bit of incentive to keep up a good pace.  For the second race in a row I was able to hold off someone in the run.  I was only 31 seconds faster than last year though, finishing in 1:31:08.

Finally the finish line.   Such a sweet sight.  Though there was one cruel steep horrible hill before you get there.  Someone's idea of a sick joke maybe.

SO happy to be done.

No finisher's medals this year which was kind of a disappointment.  Funny, last year I was expecting one and it was a pleasant surprise.  This year I was expecting one and not getting it was a disappointment.  It's all about the expectations.

I finished in 5:24:40 which is a whopping 5:57 mins. slower than last year but given the longer swim I think this represents a faster time.  In any case I was simply happy to be able to race and finish.

Strummer and Jonny were at the finish to greet me.  I was so grateful to have him cheering me along at various places in the course.  And it's always great to have pictures.  We had lunch at Snow Basin during the awards ceremony and he helped me carry all my crap back to the car which I remember was a big challenge and hassle last year.  He even went out that night and braved the big noisy, crowded Harvest Festival going on downtown a block away to get us some food for dinner.  What a luxury not having to go out in that.

The fall colors weren't anything near as beautiful as last year.  It looked like they'd gone straight to brown somehow.  Still the trails are beautiful and despite the warmer temps. (maybe high 70's?) there was a stiff breeze going and I never felt too overly hot during the run, felt fine during the bike.  A beautiful day on some beautiful trails, I felt very fortunate to be able to enjoy them and put aside all the chaos of the last few weeks.

Final Stats

Swim:  47:23 (2:04/100 yards if 2100 m/2297 yards is accurate) (39:10 last year)  
            278/342 overall (307/330 last year), 84/110 women (96/107 last year), 8/12 age group
            (9/10 last year)  An improvement in my rankings so possibly my swim was faster.

T1 plus run up from beach:  5:01 (2:53 for T1 only) (6:37 last year)

Bike:  2:59:20/6.06 mph (2:59:30 last year)   326/342 overall (316/330 last year), 101/110 women
           (99/107 last year), 12/12 age group (8/10 last year)

T2:  1:48 (1:40 last year)

Run:  1:31:08, 14:27 min/mile (1:31:39 last year)    317/342 overall (308/330 last year), 98/110
          women (96/107 last year), 11/12 age group (8/10 last year)

    Run Splits:

    Mile 1:  18:16 (17:47 last year)
    Mile 2:  11:44 (12:05 last year)
    Mile 3:  19:22 (18:15 last year)
    Mile 4:  13:28 (13:50 last year)
    Mile 5:  15:22 (mile markers not shown, time is approx.) (13:45 last year)
    Mile 6.2:  13:07 (mile markers not shown, time is approx.) (16:03 last year)

Final Time:  5:24:40 (5:18:43 last year),  315/342 overall (311/330 last year),  95/110 women
                    (96/107 last year), 11/12 age group (8/10 last year)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Not sure if I'll make it to Utah for Xterra Nationals this weekend.  My car is in the shop and was supposed to be fixed last week but they ordered to wrong part and the right one didn't arrive before the flooding began.  And they still don't have it because it's in Fort Collins which was heavily effected by the floods.  Supposed to get it today and get my car fixed by mid-day tomorrow but I'm not sure I want to drive 7 1/2 hours to Ogden for 2 1/2 days since we'd leave on Monday.  We were planning on leaving on Tuesday and making a little vacation out of the trip, it's been years since Jonny's had a vacation.  Also pre-riding the course is out of the question.  Then there's the matter of my lack of training the past 2 weeks.  Between Cody and the flooding my training has barely been a blip on my radar.  I've gotten out for a few short runs and a couple of swims, no biking at all, no hills at all.  I suppose it could be an experiment in racing while over-tapered which would provide some good training information.  I'd had a goal to break 5 hours (did it in 5 hours 19 minutes last year) with a crazy super stretch unrealistic secret goal of breaking 4:30 or maybe 4:40.  I'd have to let those go and be o.k. with it.  I haven't even been thinking about the race at all beyond the logistics of trying to get there and deal with the house and car.  Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. 

It's not a good sign when the insurance agent shows up at your house and says, 'Wow, this is the worst street I've seen so far in Boulder.'  He was probably referring to the elementary school 2 blocks away.  It's drained now in this photo taken in the evening but in the afternoon all those muddy areas were covered in 2' of water.

And it's clear he never made it down Topaz St.  This was another area that Four Mile Creek blew through and it was shown on the news a lot, fast moving waist high water covering the street.

Four Mile Creek looks so innocent now but still flowing strongly considering it's a whole week later.

Topaz St., or what's left of it

And this is after several days of clean up by volunteers.  It's not a crucial street to anybody but the people who live on it which is maybe a dozen or so houses, maybe more.  There's another through street a block over that was unaffected so the neighborhood isn't cut off.  Still, it's impressive to see what the force of nature is capable of.

1 2 3, awwww

Deer are common in that neighborhood, these guys aren't displaced.

Ah well, better get back to the mud pit in the garage and driveway.  Looks a lot better but not quite there yet.