Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fire in the Hole - USDAA Black Forest

Yes I went to a trial in Black Forest last weekend, site of the latest and most awful fire of the season.  Maybe.  There's one burning in the southwest-ish part of the state that they're not even trying to contain because it's so out of hand.  But so far I don't think it's burned any structures or killed anyone.  Unlike Black Forest which burned over 500 houses and killed 2 people.  Ironically it started right around the area that I pulled off the road last year to take a picture of the start of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

I've always loved Black Forest, I have a post about it and pictures here.  I think I got my first title at a NADAC trial in Black Forest back in the days of Cody.  The fire broke out a street or two away from the park so I was sure it would be toast but word on the street is that the grassy part of the park and the structures are o.k. but the trees are black.  Black Forest is a very beautiful, spooky, magical place but also very scary for the fire danger.  Lots of tall spindly trees packed tightly together and houses built right up against them.  I could see the place was a tinderbox from the first time I drove through there and though I love the area it's always put me a little on edge.

Photo from 2010

Some of the newer neighborhoods were planned with fire mitigation in mind and supposedly according the firefighters the fire behaved much better in those areas.  But there are a surprising number of people who don't/won't do fire mitigation.  Jonny works with someone who moved out of the area because his neighbors flat out refused to do any mitigation.  Mitigation doesn't help 100% of the time but it does in many instances and is better than doing nothing.  Anyway.

The trial was not at the park this year but rather in an arena that was under threat from the fire and in an evacuation area during the height of the fire but survived and was open again by the trial weekend.  But the fire was still smoldering in some parts of Black Forest and some roads were still shut so I had to do some detective work to try to figure out how to get to the trial.  Thankfully it turned out that the most efficient route had roads that were all open.  Still I was not looking forward to driving through the burn area.  So upsetting to see fire devastation.  But also thankfully I only had to drove through about a mile or so of burn scar and it wasn't bad compared to what the worst areas suffered.  Phew.

There was smoke at the trial site from other fires burning in the area but it wasn't horrible.  Air quality started out poor then improved on Friday.  Saturday was the reverse and by Saturday afternoon I was having sneezing fits when I went outside.  Thankfully the trial was small and I was done at 3:00 on Friday and 1:00 on Saturday.  I drove home on Friday to avoid spending the night in the smoke.  Boulder had a couple few hazy days during the height of the Black Forest fire but nothing really terrible and I was still able to run and ride my bike.

To add to the drama we had some excitement on Friday afternoon.  Right before Strummer and I stepped into the ring for his Jumpers run there was a small pop/explosion and flames from an overhead light in the arena.  I left the ring and went to grab my bag with phone/wallet and was ready to flee the building.  Many people were like me, very on edge about it, but others didn't seem all that concerned.  The arena manager shut down the lights and stood looking at the flames for a while.  Smoke started collecting in the roof.  Finally it seemed like the flames died down then there was another loud pop and more flames.  It looked like they'd died down again and the judge told me I could run.  I figured I'd be out of there in 20 seconds or so and it seemed safe enough so we started our run.  About a third of the way through right in the middle of a pinwheel the manager turned on a bunch of big industrial fans that were lining the walls of the building.  Poor Strummer, he's so scared of loud noises.  He reacted to it but I told him he was o.k. and he kept going, finished up his run with a Q and 1st place.  And it was one of the two Q's we needed to get out of Advanced.  I left the ring, grabbed my bag to leave and noticed there were still flames going in the light fixture and more smoke collecting.  Not sure why no one called the fire department, plenty of fire trucks in the area but the arena was still standing the next morning and the light fixture was gone so all ended well.

Strummer also got the Advanced Pairs Q he needed and now we're finally done with Advanced and on to Masters in everything.  Very happy about that, was the one thing I was hoping to get out of this trial.  We also had 2 fun runs in Masters Standard, both spoiled by naughty teeters.  I've got Saturday's run on tape.  Sheesh it was noisy in that arena for such a small entry.  Was hard to find music to drown out the barking.

Masters Standard

  USDAA 2013 06 MASTERS STANDARD from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I held him up a little after his naughty teeter and caused a refusal but those were our only faults.  Not many Q's on this course, maybe one or two, and lots of E's.  The opening caused a lot of the E's with dogs taking the #16 off course jump after #3 or missing the weave entry.  Lots of folks led out to jump #3 and tried pushing to the weaves which caused  knocked bars, broken tires, missed weave entries.  A few people pulled it off though and it was nice when it worked.  Many people put a front cross in between the #8 A-frame and #9 tunnel which I couldn't quite figure out.  This sent some dogs to the wrong end of #9.  A pull worked fine for me.  Seemed like the #13 jump came down a lot and some problems for people with the #13-#16 sequence.  Most people did a rear on the flat between #15 and #16 and ended up missing #16 or getting a back jump or getting bars down.  I did a front there and it wasn't pretty because I was late but we got the job done.  I don't know if anyone else with a big dog did a front, maybe one or two other people.

I had a blast running Masters Challenge Standard though it wasn't pretty.  Our first effort at a course like that at a trial, can't wait for more opportunities.  I have video but it will only make your head hurt so I'll spare you.

Overall a very fun, well run trial despite the challenges of the fire.  Some people on the trial committee lost their homes so it was a trying, emotional weekend for many people involved.  So many people happy enough for the opportunity to be able to run and have fun with their dogs, the rest seemed trivial.  One of my favorite judges as well, fun courses, easy going atmosphere, worth the 1 3/4 hour drive even if it did take 2 1/2 hours to come home in Denver rush hour traffic on Friday.

I've been somewhat absent from the internets the past few weeks.  Because it's summer and nice out and I'm out playing and training and what not and the blog, Facebook, etc. get kicked to the curb.  But I will make something of an effort to keep up with race reports, trial reports, photos, etc.  I have a sprint triathlon up Lookout Mountain this weekend that's mostly for practice.  The bike is on the road but there are some good hills and the run is on dirt roads and trails and it's super steep so it's good practice for my upcoming Xterras.

Trial Stats

Advanced Gamblers Q, 2nd place

Advanced Jumpers  Q, 1st place

Advanced Pairs Q, 2nd place

Titles:  AAD
Dogwalks:  2/4 (50%) 

A-frames:  5/5 (100%)

Weave entries:  4/5 (80%)   no pop outs

Knocked bars:  2 or 3, all were obvious handling errors

Teeters:  3/5 (60%) Ugh, not sure what was going on with the teeters this trial

Table: 1/1 (100%) fast, perfect table, I led out to next obstacle

Off courses:  3 in Masters Challenge

No broken start lines.  1 refusal in Masters Standard, probably a few in Masters Challenge.


  1. Congrats on the needed Qs to move on up to Masters!! That Masters Standard course looks quite tricky. Totally weird/scary about the fire in the building...

  2. Congrats!!! Lovely run!

  3. Congratulations on Advancing to Masters! Apparently Strummer does best when he thinks he's under attack from the air. People who lost their houses being at the trial--it's amazing to me how resilient people are, and/or how much we rely on our activities and friends within the activities to help us get through rough times. The alternative is to sit around at home, or wherever you've landed, and cry. Agility much better.

  4. Must really put things in perspective for sure... The light incident is crazy! Can't believe you were able to run with enough presence of mind to Q and place first too :D