Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Too Tired Tuesday

Too tired/busy right now for a post about the weekend's DOCNA trial so instead here's a nice photo from agility practice this morning at my training partner's house.  Strummer had some big fun and had some nice collection on jumps and a couple of awesome difficult weave pole entries.

View of clouds clearing out of the Flatirons.

I was supposed to go on a bike ride today but it was cloudy and I was tired and Tuesday is normally my rest day and wah wah wah.  So I rode my bike the 3 miles downtown to do an errand and called it good.  At least I saved gas, pollutants and driving aggravation though the idiot hippie in the big mad hatter hat who along with his friend was taking up 2/3 of the busy bike path downtown and refused to budge and let me by was somewhat aggravating.  I used to commute on my bike all the time back in the day and it was scary enough but now with cell phones and GPS displays and the basic decline in human common sense and intelligence I'm borderline terrified.  But I'd get so much more bike mileage in and save gas and wear and tear on the car and work is only 2 miles away on mostly quiet streets so I'm making an effort to ride my bike more when it makes sense.  May is going to be all about the bike.  I'm sad to leave behind all but one of my boot camp classes but it's time to shift my attention to the long neglected bike.  Just as soon as the 12" of snow we're supposed to get tomorrow melts.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bear Creek Lake Park

Jonny and I took a trip to Golden to check out Bear Creek Lake Park since it was one of the few places where the trails were dry.  The trails are very easy, smooth singletrack.  A couple of short super steepy bits but otherwise fairly easy going.  There is a good climb up Mt. Carbon, if you want to call it a 'Mt.'

View of 'Mt.' Carbon

Nonetheless I had tired legs and felt the climb since I'd gone to Kangoo boot camp class in the morning and the instructor was feeling especially fiesty. 

View of Denver from the top of Mt. Carbon

Turn around 180 degrees and you see this.

And another view from Mt. Carbon.  If you squint really hard you can see the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

They have an off-road triathlon here in the fall and I've never done it.  Last year it was a couple weeks before Xterra Nationals and the year before, its first year, it was scheduled for October and this made me leery due to the possibility of snow or very cold conditions and sure enough it snowed.  They held the race a week or two later as a duathlon.  I'd love to do the race but again it's a week before Xterra Nat's. this year.

It's a nice park, not somewhere I'd send a tourist but a good place for locals to get out and stretch their legs while waiting for the mountain trails to melt.

In all we rode only 8 1/2 miles or so but I was tired after the morning's workout and an accumulation of hard training over the past couple of weeks.  And I have an agility trial this weekend so I didn't want to go too crazy.

I should say I hope I have an agility trial tomorrow.  Strummer managed to get into a 1/2 full container of Jonny's salsa.  I've given him some hydrogen peroxide but so far no puking.  Little stinker is determined to hold onto it.  I really don't want to find out what happens when a dog eats 1/2 a container of salsa.  Guess I'll try a little more H2O2 and hope for the best.  This dog is aging me quickly.

Edited to add:

We finally have pukeage!  Phew.  Though it's sad that a vomiting dog is the highlight of my Friday night.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Snow Fun

Once again Tuesday's agility practice is cancelled due to 10" of snow.  No, none of this snow is from last week, my yard was melted down to the grass.

April is the second snowiest month but still, this is getting kind of ridiculous.

Though aside from missing agility practice I don't mind all that much.  Thankfully Tuesday is my rest day.

Strummer doesn't believe in rest days.

At least the sun is out and the snow is winding down so this may finally be the end of the spring dumpings.  In a day or two I'll be complaining about the heat.

I have an indoor agility trial this weekend and with temps. expected in the 70's I am a bit concerned that it'll get too hot.  Especially since neither Strum nor I are acclimated to that kind of heat.

I'm also bummed that I'll be inside on such nice spring days but oh well.  I only signed up for 3 runs each day so hopefully I can get out a little early and enjoy the sunshine.  I did manage to get out to the field on Sunday for some solo practice.  Dogwalk is getting better with some remedial work.  Once the yard melts I'll set up the plank/table and I think a few refresher sessions will have him ready for the weekend.

At the field I set up a small sequence to practice wraps using different handling methods - Ketschker vs Front Cross vs Forward Send.  The ground was still a bit tacky so I was able to use his paw prints to trace his path after each rep.  The Ketschker ended up way tighter than the others.  It would be helpful if I had video to compare execution of the moves but I knew I wouldn't have time this week for the project of processing the video so I didn't bother.

Course was blue jump/tunnel/yellow jump back to tunnel.

The tightest path was with the Ketschker, next tightest was the front cross, widest was the forward send.

This is not to say the tightest turn was the fastest.  But it was by far the 'prettiest' and by that I mean Strum had nice collection before the turn and knew where he was going with the Ketschker.  With the others he turned more on the flat on the landing side and had more concussion to his shoulders.  Also worked on some Top Spin just for fun.  I had a similar set-up to last time and went much closer to the jump this time, had more of a pivot and remembered to leave myself enough room to allow for a little motion so he wouldn't stall out.  No photos or videos unfortunately but it did feel more comfortable this time and he hit the weaves correctly every time.

Now if only the snow will melt.  Someone decided to express his opinion about missing agility practice today and being cooped up yesterday during the storm.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Playing Tourist in East County

Trails were too muddy for biking on Saturday so once again I hit the dirt roads for a visit out to The Cowboy in East Boulder County.

I ran into Jonny who was all shook up from nearly being hit by a car.  He decided to ride with me for a bit even though I'm way slower.  He showed me a blue heron rookery which I've never quite made it out to.

One of these days I'll go out there with my telephoto lens and real camera but all I had on Saturday was the point and shoot.

We also visited the largest plains Cottonwood tree in the country.

There's an Osprey nest right next to the road on my route and today one of them was hanging out on a nearby pole while the other was in the nest.

You can see a wee bit of a fish tail to the left of the pole.  Guess he was saving his snack for later.

Nice view of the Front Range from the heron rookery.

I'd like to say that that last lingering bit of powder on the mountains is the end of the snow for the season but we're due for 8" by tomorrow morning.  It was supposed to start raining this afternoon then turn to snow later but alas, it's only 10:00 a.m. and the snow has started already.  They also said the first 2" probably wouldn't stick since the ground is so warm (was shorts weather yesterday) but it's sticking in my yard already.  Can't believe it was sunny and warm an hour ago.  Oh well, at least it's coming now and not this weekend for my agility trial.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shock and Disbelief

As shocking as the Boston Marathon bombings are to the general population they are even more of a sucker punch to the gut for those of us who are runners and especially those of us who have completed marathons.

The finish line of a marathon is already a powerful and emotional experience.  For the average person, training for a 26.2 mile race involves a  lot of hard work and sacrifice.  Getting up at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to get that 20 mile run in on already tired legs before it gets too hot or getting up at 4:00 a.m. on a Wednesday to get in that 12 mile run before work.  Then having to go to work or mow the lawn or deal with your crazy dogs who now need their exercise and meet all of life's other demands and you're tired.  So tired, all the time.  You end up cutting out a lot of other activities because over time the training wears you down.  You become obsessed with your nutrition and your gear and the weather.  But you've set your goal and you know that after all your hard work that finish line and amazing sense of accomplishment are waiting for you.

This is me and my friend on April 24, 1983 finishing our first marathon, the now defunct Lake County Heart Marathon that went from Zion to Highland Park/Ravinia in the the northern suburbs of Chicago.  I was 18 years old and running a marathon was not so common as it is now.  I felt like if I could do this, I could do anything.

30 years later I can still feel the mix of physical and mental fatigue and joy and anticipation as I approached the finish line of my first marathon.  I even remember encouraging another runner on just a mile or two from the finish as she made noises about giving up.  And then the incredible feeling of accomplishment and exhaustion and relief and happiness when I crossed that finish line.  The emotions you feel at the sight of the finish line of a marathon are something you have to experience first hand to understand completely.

And for many, the Boston Marathon is even more of an emotional event.  It's not easy to qualify for Boston.  It can take many years of hard training to qualify and some never do despite the hard work.  Boston was never one of my goals but for many people I know it's a powerful, intense, life changing event.  The finish line there is particularly notorious for its incredible celebratory atmosphere.  I find the idea of being greeted by a bomb at the finish line of this or any marathon incomprehensible.  How those runners at the finish line of Boston found room for the emotions of a bomb going off and the horrible aftermath in addition to all the other emotions and exhaustion they were already feeling is even more incomprehensible.

Marathon running has grown in popularity over the years but it's still a fringe sport.  Most people don't even know Boston is being run until they see it on the evening news.  Heck, I didn't even realize it was going on until the NPR program I was listening to was interrupted by news of the bombing.  In hindsight I can see how it's a perfect target in so many ways but before yesterday I never in  a million years would have expected a marathon to be a terrorism target.  How dare the real world intrude on our little community.  And perhaps even worse, on the supporters of our little community because the spectators bore the brunt of the blasts and suffered the worst of the injuries.  I can't fathom how it must feel as a runner to have such a hard earned accomplishment paired with the death or severe injury of a loved one who had selflessly come to support me.

Finish lines should be about joy and accomplishment and the wonderful feeling of exhaustion from a goal well met.  Don't let the terrorists take away your finish line.

Edinburgh Marathon (Scotland), June 2004

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stink Canyon

Well, Skunk Canyon actually but someone decided that if he couldn't find any skunks, he'd find something to roll in to stink himself up.  There's a reason his #1 nickname is Stinkpants.

He was not wearing that same grin on his face after his shampoo and blow dry when we got home.  No tip for me as his stylist, just stink eye, pouting and the silent treatment.

Other than that it was a beautiful hike up Enchanted Mesa/Skunk Canyon.

There were lots of pinecones to chase.

And pretty views for the humans.

Still some snow on the higher peaks.

Classic Flatirons view.

This short hike usually takes 1 hour 10 minutes (less than an hour if I run it) or so but Strummer managed to stretch it out to 1 hour 35 minutes with his sniffing and rolling and peeing on every last yucca plant in sight.

I'd had a much harder workout on Saturday though and was looking to take it easy.  Two hour mountain bike ride on the Dirty Bismark trail.  Took some extra trails to make it longer than normal.  A beautiful day on that trail too.

Some snow on the Continental Divide.  Probably won't last too much longer.

Classic view of the front range/flatirons.

I did the loop in a clockwise direction for the first time which meant I had a not so very fun long steep climb up a wide gravely trail but it was good practice for the Buffalo Creek Xterra which has a much longer, much steeper much less pleasant climb up a steep jeep road at the end of an already very long bike course.  On the other hand it meant I got to ride down those fun trails shown in the photo above.  Whee.

After 2 hours/16.6 miles of that I threw on my running shoes and did a short 2.6 mile loop on the Marshall Mesa trail.  I managed to twist my ankle and fall about 30 seconds into the run because there's a bunch of rocky, uneven slickrock right at the trail head.  There is a nice smooth, dirt handicap ramp but I was too much of a genius to go down that.  It took a couple of minutes until I could bear weight on it but I shook it off and finished my run no problem.  It wasn't physically hard but I was mentally tired but the run went quickly (38:30 mins.) and my ankle was fine.  Until I got up at some wee hour in the morning and couldn't bear weight on it again.  Then got up a few hours later and it was fine.  Hike today was no problem.  We'll see how boot camp and agility go tomorrow.  In the meantime I think I need to revisit some of my ankle strengthening/balancing exercises from when I sprained my ankle.  I've twisted both ankles while simply walking several times in the last couple few weeks.

Lory is supposed to open in a week.  I want to go up and pre-ride the Xterra course (race is first weekend in June) and try out the trails using my hardtail (ie no rear suspension) mountain bike since it will be lighter and the trails aren't that technical.  But I'm not looking forward to seeing the burn area.  The media was allowed in 3 weeks ago and there are some photos and video here.  I've seen a more recent photo and it looked like things were starting to green up so hopefully it won't be too horribly depressing.  Fires are good for the grasslands in general but not when they get too crazy.  Hopefully with all the moisture we've been getting the park will spring back by June and be even more awesome.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Maybe I Should Get a Cat

A cat, well actually an 8 month old kitten, that does weave poles, blind crosses, backsides of jumps, a teeter and has a perfect running dogwalk.  Amazing.  I wonder if I could send Strummer to this girl to help with his running dogwalk.

Once the 9" of snow in my yard melts I'm going to set up his plank/table and go back to basics. Practice at the field goes back and forth between perfect and disaster so I'm going to try some backyard dogwalk boot camp in hopes of getting better consistency.  To be fair, I've been practicing some challenging turns off the end of the dogwalk so I suppose it's understandable that things will deteriorate but still, I couldn't even get good hits with the reliable stride regulator.

 At a trial somebody asked me if I would train a running dogwalk again and I said hells yeah I would. For one thing it's so much more fun than stopped contacts. For another, I've already made the mistakes and gone through the learning curve, of course I want to try it again using all I've learned. Though it will hopefully be a long long time before I get another dog. I'm through with the 3 dog experiment, much prefer having only 2 so I'd have to have 2 dogs leave me before getting another and I don't even want to think about that so yeah, no new dogs or dogwalk training for a long long while.

Lola enjoying our latest spring snow.

Melting quickly, this is the day after 9" of snow fell.  Looked so white and pretty and sparkly this morning but by the time I got us out for our afternoon walk it was already turning to brown.

Not so happy about the grainy cell phone pictures but I couldn't be bothered digging out my camera before our walk.

Trails should be dry by the weekend, time to hit the hills and start training for reals.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

You Spin Me Right Round Baby Right Round

Like a record.

I was intrigued by a post by Agility Nerd about a handling move called Top Spin so I thought I give it a spin, so to speak, out at the practice field this morning.  You can check out the course map and description of the move as well as some video here.  Basically you use it when you want a lot of collection on a turn but not a full wrap.  You turn your shoulders towards the dog like you would in an RFP, if you do RFP's, but instead of quickly turning back, you keep going in a full circle.  Here's a rough sketch of the set-up I used so you don't have to go back and forth between here and Agility Nerd.

Dog goes over jump 2 on your right and as the dog commits to 3 you turn into him, or to your left, and continue in a full circle, moving in a clockwise direction.

I shot some video including some slow motion of both the Top Spin and a front cross between 3 and 4 with rear cross at the weaves.  Steve's got video as well and shows an RFP and a shoulder pull with deceleration.  I didn't try these with Strum because I can tell you right now that no way will he get that weave entry with just a shoulder pull/decel cue.  This is largely due to his spotty weave entry skills and partly due to the speed coming out of the tunnel.  And I really don't like RFP's, especially in this scenario, way too herky jerky, didn't want to try to go there with Strummer.  My first choice before trying the Top Spin would be a front cross between 3 and 4.  I didn't draw the full course but you turn to the left after the weaves so you want your dog on your right when he exits the weaves so with the front you either need a rear cross at the weave entry or a front or blind cross at the weave exit, none of which is a problem for us.  In particular I've been practicing tough rear crosses at the entry as a method of proofing and it's helping Strum a lot with his entries and staying in.

Anyway, here's my video, shot from a different angle from Steve's video, mostly to avoid shooting into the bright glare of the morning sun.  I've got examples of both the Top Spin and Front Cross in slow motion so you can see the details and the weave entry.

TOP SPIN ii from colliebrains on Vimeo.

It took us many tries to get the weave entry with the Top Spin but this could be just as much a product of Strummer's difficulty with weave entries as it is from the handling move itself.  The front cross allows me to shape the entry but even so he still missed it on one rep with the front cross.  In the case of the Top Spin it could also be that I was positioned such that I was blocking his entry on the misses, hard to tell from the angle of the video.

In general I prefer the front cross because it's more comfortable and even more so because I don't have to lose that contact/connection by taking my eyes off my dog.  I don't mind this during blind crosses and Ketschkers because the amount of disconnection is so small but the time it takes to spin around a full 360 degrees is significant, at least to me, and the period of disconnection felt like an eternity.  And I felt like I wasted precious time and mental energy trying to find him and re-connect again and Strum seemed a bit hesitant to the point of checking in on the earlier reps.  It's hard to say if this would get better with practice or if it's a problem intrinsic to the move.  Also I sometimes have problems with becoming disoriented when rotating out of a front cross and losing where I am on course during a competition and for me I could see this being an issue with this move, especially in the heat of competition.  Like Steve I also had issues with turning too soon and pulling him off the jump.  Verbal jump cues do little to send him on over a jump if my body language is saying something else so I have to be a little 'late' if I'm using collection cues that involve facing him.  Much less precision in timing involved with a front cross in this scenario.  But the Top Spin looks cooler on the video so I guess if you're going for style points . . .

Probably not a move I'd use very often if ever but I love experimenting with new handling moves and I'll throw it in here and there during practice just for fun if there's occasion for it.  Thanks to Steve at Agility Nerd for showing us a fun new move.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Spring in Colorado

Last weekend (1 week ago):

This past weekend:

This is why you don't see many photos of Cody lately.

He bumbles right up to me, gets too close to the camera and even if I do manage a shot, he does something awkward like close his eyes.

He's doing o.k. these days, kinda wobbly in his rear legs, falls over sometimes, does a lot of that old dog pacing, wanders into corners and stays there for a bit, typical old dog stuff but he has his moments of perkiness, chasing me around the yard as long as I don't go too fast.  Somehow he can run and do big 4 legged jumps when dinner is getting dished out.  Funny how that works.  Going to be 15 in July.

Had a nice long 3 1/4 hour bike ride on the plains on Saturday and got a nice shot of the twin peaks, Longs and Meeker.

Then went on a 4 1/4 hour hike up at Hall Ranch on Sunday and got more shots of the twin peaks from a different vantage.

And a more panoramic view.

Classic Hall Ranch shot.

Both days were perfect, sunny, blue skies, low 60's with a nice breeze.  Quite the contrast to the snowstorm and 12 degrees of last weekend.

The coffee shop we normally go to in Lyons was shut for Easter which was surprising because Easter's not really that big of a deal in the Boulder area and most places were open.  But we easily found another place that was open that seemed appropos.

The coffee was better and the people working there didn't have the same snooty attitude as the other place so I think we've found a new place for pre-ride/hike fueling up.  And I guess Lyons is the sort of place where you can leave a several thousand dollar titanium Litespeed road bike unlocked on the main street. 

Beautiful day again today and supposed to rain/snow tomorrow.  April always keeps us on our toes.

Eight weeks until my first race in June up in Lory provided they don't cancel it due to the fire.  So far it sounds like it's a go but 10 bridges were destroyed and will have to be re-built.  I thought about offering my structural engineering skills to help design the bridges but then I realized that they probably still have the plans from the original bridges.  I was looking at a map of the burn area and it looks like almost if not all of the entire bike course is burned.  Hard to say if the run course was torched but I suspect it was.  Miraculously though the transition area is not burned.  The fire came right up to the boundaries of it and let it be.  I think the finish area is o.k. as well.  Will probably be a very depressing race but you never know, maybe the grasses will start to grow back in May.  The park almost certainly needed a fire going through it, just not such a big and extensive one.

Anyway, this month's training will include the start of hill training for both bike and run.  I'm going to sign up for one more month of boot camp classes then in May I'll start going maybe only once or twice a week.  I hate to stop though, I feel so much better and stronger doing weights and plyometrics a few times a week but I suppose I can do them on my own.  I'm going to see how I manage during April as I increase my biking and running. 

No agility trials until the end of the month but my training partner is up for training again so Strummy gets to play tomorrow.  I've been going to the practice field on my own to work on dogwalks and such but it's fun to have someone to train with.

Bring on the spring.