Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Cheap Ass Continuing Education Following the Pareto Principle

Today is another Dog Agility Blog Event and we're discussing Continuing Education. 

The Pareto principle, or 80-20 rule, states that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes.  And when I think about all the seminars, books, DVD's, seminars, classes, magazines (did I mention seminars?)  that I've ever bought, read, attended, etc. this holds true.  Don't get me wrong, I love going to seminars and learning new stuff.  Love it more than or at least as much as trialing.  But I'd say that 80% of the useful stuff I've learned has come from 20% of the seminar presenters.  And that precious little information that I've heard at seminars has actually worked its way into my training and even less into the ring.  Let's be honest here, hands up who goes through their seminar notes from 4-5 years ago?  Two years ago?  Last year?  Ever?  I did finally wise up and shoot some video from one of the 20% seminar presenters and I have occasionally gone back and looked at that.  Enormously useful.  My notes?  Can barely make heads or tails of them.  And I take careful notes.

I'm also terribly guilty of charging on to learn new fancy handling maneuvers when my nearly 10 year old dog still struggles with weave pole entries.  Because an enormous amount of effort has gone into those weave pole entries with little improvement.  So why not let it go and practice something fun like that fancy blind cross serpentine move?  And fess up people, I know I'm not alone, I see plenty of people struggling in the masters ring with super basic training/handling holes.  I'm not judging here, I'm right there with you.  But I wonder how much more gains I might get from just a little bit more effort with the basics?

I don't take lessons or go to a lot of seminars and I've never taken an online class mostly for economic reasons but also because after 15 years in the sport I'm not sure if the time/effort/money are going to give me big gains.  I'm not for a second saying I know it all or that I have nothing to learn.  There's loads to learn.  Asstons.  The sport has come so far and continues to progress at such a pace that I wonder if we'll soon have two tiers of agility (if we don't already).  But I think there's value in taking time to practice, working on and reinforcing the basics as well as the fancy stuff, and perhaps most importantly of all, learning how to figure stuff out for ourselves.  I work with a training partner and when something goes wrong we help each other troubleshoot.  I learn from helping her almost as much as I learn going through the exercises myself.  I've also learned how to spot stuff on my own, how to feel when I've done something wrong without needing a teacher or even a video camera.  I'm not always right but I'm getting there.  Seminars and the occasional lesson are super fun but it's these once a week little training sessions along with playing short little games with the weave poles and teeter (another issue that crops up if I don't keep on it) in my backyard that give me the 80% of results.  Plus I love farting around, experimenting with things, why should the experts be the only ones who get to invent handling moves?

I also learn a lot from watching handling at trials.  I don't typically experiment with a completely unpracticed move at a trial but I'll often go home and set up a similar scenario to practice something I saw someone else do.  Or I may not like the exact handling move but it'll spark an idea of something to try.  So much great stuff out there to learn from other people but I think we get the most bang for our time and effort by spending the time working with our dogs and learning how to learn for ourselves.

This post is part of the Dog Agility Dog Event.  For more posts on Continuing Education go here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Strength Training for the Lazy?

In my quest for More Strong I've stumbled across 'Body by Science', a high intensity weight training program which claims you can get all the exercise you need, both strength and cardiovascular, in just 12 minutes a week.  The catch is that you're only supposed to do 12 minutes a week.  For those who hate exercise and are pressed for time this is hardly a catch but for those like me who love to be active and outside a lot this is a prison sentence.  But I'm intrigued.  But I'm also feeling like how can I make this work?  If you're doing a sport you're 'allowed' to work on skills during your recovery week but no more physical conditioning.  Now to be fair this program is completely contra-indicative to triathlon training.  The creator, Doug McGuff, is very much opposed to running and other forms of 'chronic cardio' and endurance sports.  And I can't say as I don't share his concerns.  Here's an interesting video by a cardiologist and runner.

And yes there are alternative points of view.  But nonetheless I've been aware of the issues surrounding endurance training and heart health for at least 7-8 years now and it was instrumental in my switch from wanting to train for a half ironman to doing offroad/Xterra triathlons.  In general the recommendations for most health benefits and least damage are no more than 12 hours per week of training and running should be 1-2 1/2 hours per week spread over 2-3 runs, 10-15 miles per week and no faster than 10 min/mile pace, though I believe sprint/interval training is supposed to be good.  Now for me a 10 min./mile pace is near sprint pace but that's another post.  Anyway, I'm not willing to give up these activities that I love but I am willing to sacrifice training for performance for training for health and I kept my training hours to around 10 hours per week for high volume weeks last summer with a couple weeks heading into the 12 hour range.  This is not the sort of training that necessarily gets someone like me to the podium at Nationals but it's a good compromise of health/performance and I felt sufficiently pushed without being overtrained.  The ultimate damage/benefit to my heart is a complete unknown.

So I'm not sure where this leaves me with the Body by Science protocol.  It seems that I can continue to swim my skills/drills masters workouts.  Maybe even include one USRPT/sprint workout?  But running remains a black box.  I was hoping to really focus on running this winter, especially form and it seems maybe I can do that but sprints/interval training are out of the question or maybe only once a week if I don't so my swim sprints.  I'm going to give it a shot though.  If I feel like I can handle it or I'm pushing myself towards overtraining I'll simply stop and go back to my regular weight training.
 But one weight training session a week is so appealing.  I hates weight training and now that I don't have my boot camp class it's all the more difficult to stay motivated. 

And this sounds like it could be a great program for agility people looking to get into shape and/or people who hate to exercise or are very pressed for time.  In perusing online forums and blogs about the program it seems that anecdotally there are people having success.  Seems like the biggest issue is that the program is centered around the notion of pushing the muscle to failure and that for some people this can be difficult to achieve unless you have a coach or training partner at your session with you.  And also that you can eventually develop an aversion to the training  because it is so hard and unpleasant and this was my experience with the Tabata sprints experiment.  Even though the workout was very short I'd start dreading it an hour beforehand.  But I'm open minded here, mind over matter or whatever.  I'm hoping to start this Saturday and I'll post updates.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

And the Award for 'Worst Nutrition Advice on the Internets' Goes to . . .

USA Triathlon and their article on how we should all eat more bread and wheat and gluten and white flour.  I don't even know where to start with this, makes my head want to explode.  And the author is a coach and registered dietician which only adds to my conviction that registered dieticians are the absolute very last people we should be listening to.  Her main argument is that bread contains B vitamins, iron and fiber and we all need those things.  And it's true that bread contains those things if the flour has been enriched.  But you know what else contains those things?  Vegetables.  And they contain about 3-4 times the amount that bread has.  The bread I used to buy, Rudy's Organic Colorado Cracked Wheat, contains 6% US RDA of iron and 8% fiber.  A cup of cooked spinach contains 36% iron and 17% fiber plus a whole lot of other vitamins and minerals and other good stuffs.  And no gluten.  Various types of meats and seafood are also way higher in iron and B vitamins, some like liver and mollusks provide 129-155% iron.  And no gluten.

Which brings me to perhaps the most aggravating claim in the article, that, "Most of us (97 percent) digest wheat and its protein, gluten, just fine," when in fact 0% of us digest wheat gluten.  This week I've been immersing myself in free online lectures at the Autoimmune Summit and pretty much every single expert lists giving up gluten as the number one thing you can do to help with an autoimmune disease.  And so far pretty much all the practitioners I've heard speak have said that all their patients with autoimmune diseases also have gluten sensitivity (and not necessarily celiac disease which very few people have).  The only lab in the country that tests extensively for gluten sensitivity is Cyrex and it's mostly functional medicine doctors that order these tests, not conventional MD's.  You can have gluten sensitivity and not have GI symptoms.  And you maybe can tolerate gluten until suddenly maybe you can't.  I know, people love to roll their eyes when you mention gluten.  They call it a fad and it'll go away.  Except I don't think it's going to.  Only going to get worse as the generations march on.  Even South Park gets it.

So yeah, let's eat more bread and pasta and nutrient poor processed food.  Because the obesity and diabetes levels in this country aren't high enough.

Edited to add:
A quick Google search of the author reveals that her 'primary areas of expertise include focus group moderating and meeting facilitation' and that her 'clients include the grocery industry, leading food companies, and public relations firms. She has worked closely with government agencies, trade associations, and other non-governmental organizations.'  So yeah, it's her job to promote the food industry and make them look not so evil.  So important to vet the sources of nutrition info. on the nets. Shame on USA Triathlon for serving as a vehicle for the food industry though I can't say I'm surprised.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

On Strike

Been enjoying my off season/recovery month.  Perfect weather, the nicest fall I can remember ever, anywhere.  Lots of hiking, walks w/ dogs, Kangoo jump boots, even some agility - I know, shock horror.  I've been doing my strength training at the playground.  Very fun.  Very challenging.  First time I tried it I did 20 minutes worth and it felt like nothing then I woke up the next morning and couldn't move for 2 days.  Lots of little experiments planned.  Too many in fact, had to cut down and I think the first one getting the axe for now is ketosis.  Partly because I'd have to pony up just over $100 for a ketosis meter but mostly because - Sweet Potato Season!  I love sweet potatoes.  But they don't go with ketosis so much.  Again I could buy a meter and see how much if any I could eat and stay in ketosis but . . . yeah, too much money and hassle for now.  It's still on my list of experiments, just moved to the bottom.

The big thing I'm working on right now is my running.  It's the one thing that didn't improve this year despite what felt like a lot of hard speed work.  So I've decided to focus on form this fall and there are lots of methods to choose from.  For now I've decided on Kelly Starrett's 'Ready to Run' book, hot off the presses.

He's a bit controversial I think, especially amongst triathlon folks/runners probably because his focus is Crossfit.  But I like his 'systems approach' to running.  He outlines 12 steps to take to prepare the body for running and these include mobility exercises for various systems of the body to improve range of motion, restore function, etc.  I have a suspicion that these range of motion limitations are a big part of what's holding me back.

Step number 2 of this program involves building up strength in the foot by walking around barefoot when possible and otherwise wearing flat (zero drop), minimally or uncushioned shoes with the end result of being able to run in such shoes.  And I suspect this will be the biggest issue for me because right now I have mega-cushioned stability shoes and custom orthotics.  And despite several years of trying to change my stride I'm still a heel striker.  Big time.  My feet are not so fabulous either.  I'll spare you the tedious details of all my issues but I've had foot surgery that included sawing through my big toe and reattaching it with pins and plates.  And I've got broken sesmoid bones in both feet (the sesmoid bones are in the forefoot).  So I've spent maybe 20 years avoiding landing on my forefoot in addition to 14 years of cushioned stability shoes and custom orthotics.

The podiatrist told me my foot problems arose as a result of wearing flat, unsupportive shoes so I'm very leery of drinking the Kool-Aid of minimalist running shoes.  And don't even get me started about the myth of it's impossible to heel strike in a pair of uncushioned, flat shoes or while running barefoot.  Because I just saw a video of an agility competitor running in 3 different styles of flat shoes including the Vibram 5 Fingers and she was heel striking in all 3 of them.  One of the runners in the promo video for Kelly's own book is heel striking!

Check out the runner heel striking at around 44 seconds.

And how big of an issue is heel striking anyway?  I honestly don't know.  There are disadvantages to forefoot striking.  Plus for me all the hardware and broken bones in my forefoot.

But I do like the idea of building up strength in my feet and if I have any complaints about the book so far it's that there are only mobility exercise for the foot, no specific foot strengthening exercises.  You're supposed to rely on barefoot walking and minimalist shoe usage to build up the strength.  So I set out yesterday to get a pair of cheapo flat gym shoes at the local Payless only to discover that it's fallen victim to the mansionification of Boulder, ie rich folk don't buy their shoes at Payless and Boulder is so overrun with rich folks.  Middle class/working class pretty much gone.  And real estate prices/rentals are going through the roof again.  Not sure what I'm still doing here but that's a post for another day.

Anyway I ended up at Boulder Running Company which is the last place I wanted to end up somehow it sucked me in and I ended up with a ridiculously expensive pair of zero drop but minimally cushioned shoes.

Very comfy, very purple.  I do love the purple.  Probably too much cushion for what Kelly was intending but the only zero drop shoes in the joint and they're probably a good transition for me given all my issues.  Something in between the super minimalist and the super cushion.  Might not build up the foot strength as much at first but again maybe a good transition for now until I get used to the taste of the Kool-Aid.

But despite the minimal drop and lighter cushioning, I'm still heel striking though admittedly not nearly as bad as in my regular shoes.

First 2 clips are in regular shoes the rest are in the new shoes

The plan is baby steps.  I'll spend 2 months just walking in these things, first just a mile on Lola's old dog walk then increasing gradually to a longer, faster Strummer walk.  Then the protocol is for 10% of total distance and gradually increasing I think by 10% each week but I may go even slower than that.  I'm going to wear them for my plyometrics and playground strength training as well.  I'll shoot more video in a month or so to see if there's any improvement.  There's definitely a change in stride with these shoes and I think I'll like it but I'll need to read more in the book to see what else is going on.

Oh for the days of being able to run around like a little kid without so much thought or risk of injury.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The World Loses Another Great One Too Soon

RIP Dr. Sophia Yin.  Her positive influence on the lives of dogs and their people is so far reaching and profound and will be sorely missed.  Strummy and Lola are forever thankful for their beloved Treat Gizmo.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Goals You Didn't Even Know You Had

I love the tired feeling after a good hard race.  The first 1-2 nights after a race of twitchy legs and restless sleep aren't so fun but the next 4 days or so of super sound, long deep sleep and the feeling of strength coming back to your legs and arms are wonderful.  Also the feeling of not having to be anywhere.  Like the reservoir at 6:15 on a cool cloudy morning.  Or outdoor masters at the pool when it's in the mid-50's and cloudy and the pool is not particularly toasty warm.  I will get back to a training routine pretty sharpish but for now it feels good to keep things loose and easy.  As long as I keep moving in some fashion I'm good.

I had a load of experiments and other fun things planned for the off season and then an email arrived informing me that I had accomplished the completely unplanned goal of qualifying for the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii next month.  Now this made me laugh a bit because, um, Worlds?!  This was not even on my radar.  I only vaguely knew how to qualify and I knew it was hard and competitive.  It wasn't until the morning of Nationals that someone told me about the 'roll down' spots and that it was a possibility.  Still, I didn't let that thought seep into my day at Nat's. and it did not effect my race.  Because Worlds.  Yeah right.  You have to place 1st or 2nd in your age group at one of 4 Regionals across the country or at Nationals to qualify.  If people who finish ahead of you already earned a spot then the spot rolls down to you.  Or something like that.  Even a roll down spot is hard to get.  Former Ironman Pro and triathlon icon Wendy Ingraham got in to Worlds on a roll down spot. 

Anyway, Hawaii is way too far to go for a race which is another reason I've never even considered Worlds as a goal.  It's going to sound weird but Hawaii has never been on my wish list of places to go.  Long expensive plane ride, expensive hotels once you get there, hot, humid, icky sticky.  And what is there to do?  The volcanoes and whales would be cool but otherwise . . . what?  Lying on the beach in the icky sticky humidness?  Not really my thing.  And I live 50-60 minutes drive from this:

I'm not super compelled to spend zillions of dollars and the nightmare of 16 hours on a plane to go to the icky sticky.

But participating in a World Championship?  That could be interesting, not something I ever considered but now the seed is planted.  No way I would go this year but maybe next year?  Or in a couple few years if I could cut a lot more time off of my races?  Definitely something to ponder.  There's no guarantee I would qualify next year either.  It all depends on who shows up, who claims their spot, etc.  Too many factors out of my control to set it as a goal but at least I could consider it as a possibility so that if I qualify again I could be prepared to go if I wanted to.  The race looks challenging - steep climbs on the bike at least.  It looks like a race that requires a lot of physical strength and building physical strength is my main goal for the off season anyway.  If I prepare and train with Worlds in mind I should do well at my local races and Nat's. even if I don't make it to Worlds.

Now, what to do about building that strength, that is the next big question.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Xterra Nationals 2014


Swim course distance: 1,500-meters/1640 yards (0.93 miles) Combines two 750-meter laps (no run in-between)
 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

LOVE the purple shirts they gave us this year!

Finally I have a good race at Nationals.  Such a great feeling when it all comes together and you have that awesome day.  I get to Utah late Tuesday afternoon and have plenty of time to relax, pre-ride the bike course, have a swim in Pineview Reservoir and of course a visit to Antelope Island.  Such a difference from last year, night and day.  I feel strong and rested and ready.


Heading out for my warm-up and feeling good.

The water is 67.5 degrees, air temp. must be low to mid-60's with the sun beating down.  I don't wear my swim socks and I'm not cold at all.  Probably don't need my neoprene skull cap but it helps to keep the water out of my ears and doesn't hinder me in any way so I wear it.

The swim field seems smaller than last year and it's not my imagination.  The Championship age group field was 342 last year and is 266 this year.  I decide to line up with the buoys this year so I don't waste time swimming extra yardage.  The race director has promised that the course will be accurate this year.  Last year it was possibly as much as 660 yards long which is a LOT for a course that's supposed to be 1640 yards.  Last year the buoy had drifted overnight and no one had checked it in the morning but this year the race director promises it will be checked.  And standing on shore I'm happy to see that the buoy looks significantly closer than last year.

And we're off.  That smoke is from the starter cannon.  Because Xterra uses a cannon, not some panty waist starter pistol.

The washing machine

The first buoy comes up much more quickly this year and I'm able to sight it a little better since it's closer in.  There's congestion at the first turn but I'm expecting it and keep calm and wait my turn to get around.  It's crowded but not nearly as bad as previous years.  I occasionally get boxed in even on the second lap but thanks to the races I did this summer I can figure out how to work my way through.  I draft a bit here and there but I don't do it too much because I feel like the people I'm drafting off are holding me back so I go a good pace for me and catch a few feet here and there when I can.  I focus on my stroke technique, trying to pull every bit of power I can from every stroke.  I feel smooth and strong in the water despite the crowds and turbulence and I'm passing people the whole way.  My time is 35:07/2:08 per 100 yards, a bit slow for 1500 meters compared to my Stroke-n-Stride/race times this summer which were more like 1:48-1:50 per 100 yards but given the crowd I had to navigate and the long day I have ahead of me and how good I feel coming out of the water I'm VERY happy with my swim.

I run up the boat ramp to T1 in 1:16, a big improvement over last year's 2:08.

T1 is 8 seconds slower than last year.  I probably don't need to worry about tying my gear bag shut, the volunteers usually do it and that's likely where I lost the time.  Gloves are a bit problematic as usual but I've left a small towel to dry my hands and this helps.


My bike goes really well this year.  I ride all the way up Wheeler Canyon without having to get off at all (usually there's a spot or two that I have to walk due to steepness and other people walking).  My coach passes me at the one rocky, steep spot I always get off at and some other people get off but we ride up it no problem. 

Jonny is waiting to cheer me on at the Green Pond trailhead.  I hit the trailhead at around 1:04 hours.  I'm not sure but I think this is a good time.  I can't remember my times from previous years.  I feel much better than in previous years though.  It's pretty much all climbing up to this point and usually I'm plenty tired.

For the first time the other racers from the sprint and non-championship race don't try to pass me on the single track downhill after Green Pond.  This has been the one scary part of the course for me in year's past but this year I ride it no problem and only 2 people pass me on a wide portion of road.  Phew!  In fact pretty much everybody that passes me this year is really nice and patient, waiting for a good place to pass rather than trying to squeeze by me on narrow trail.  There are a couple of meat head local guys from the local race being impatient and yelling, 'left, Left, LEFT' over and over even though there's no where for them to pass but at least all they do is yell and they don't try to run me off the trail like the other years.  When I reach the turn off for Sardine Peak which is where the sprint racers turn off I hear the volunteer tell the sprint racer that he's in 5th so I was well ahead of most of them and this makes me realize I must be going faster this year.

But being faster means I end up in a bigger crowd on Sardine Peak.  This is kind of good because I have some pressure and people to pace off of.  I fall behind a man who is about my pace and I let him pull me up the mountain.  Sometimes he surges ahead a bit and I push to keep up.  I also have a couple of women on my heels pushing from behind.  Usually I'm on my own with a few other people struggling on Sardine Peak so I'm excited that this year it actually feels like a race.  Xterra interviewed me for their race t.v. show this year and one of the thing they asked me was what would be a Facebook status that I would post during the race.  I tell them, 'Riding up Sardine Peak feeling strong, enjoying the fall colors,' and this keeps running through my head as I ride.  I do feel strong and I am enjoying the colors.

Sardine Peak during the pre-ride

Near the top of Sardine Peak one of the women behind me starts chatting, asking me where I'm from, etc.  I'm always amazed when people do this.  I answer her in short, one words gasps and she eventually gives up.  The guy who's been pulling me up pulls over to the side for a rest near the top.  I thank him for the pull and then quickly everyone I've been riding with smokes me on the downhill.  It's o.k. though, it's not a very long downhill and I'm happy to go a pace that feels good to me.  The descent is super fun, smooth swoopy singletrack with a few tight switchbacks but mostly fun, fast weaving through the woods and the fall colors.

There's a another short climb on the Maples trail but it's not too bad and soon I'm back at Snowbasin where Jonny cheers me on once again and snaps a few more photos.

Love this aerial shot.  He was up on a hill above the course.

As I head towards transition I look at my cyclometer and realize my time is 20 minutes faster than last year!  SO excited for that.  Later my official time is about 2 mins. slower and I realize my cyclometer turns off when I stop and I probably lost 2 mins. on Sardine Peak having to stop to let people by at some switchbacks that I walked up.  Also a woman ahead of me fell down at a switchback she couldn't quite make it up and it took a bit for her to clear off the trail.  Still, so excited by that huge improvement.  And I felt a lot stronger on the bike this year as well.


Ah the run.  I'm hoping for a 10 min. or so improvement on the run but pretty early on I realize it's not happening for me this year.  The first mile is a steep climb up that most people end up walking including me.

The second mile is downhill and I usually end up getting a cramp and this year is no different.  Then the trail becomes more rolling - some ups some downs - and the cramp eases up.  Don't know what it is about running steep downhills but I even get cramps in training even if the downhill is at the start of the run.  Something to work out this winter/spring.  It's a bit warm, maybe high 70's, but there's a stiff breeze here and there and plenty of aid stations so I'm able to dump water on my head and cool myself down.  Still my head wants to go but my legs won't cooperate.  I feel like I have strength left in my legs, I don't have that burning feeling, but somehow I can't go any faster.  At almost the half way point someone from my age group passes me and she's going way faster, no way I can even pretend to try to keep up.  Oh well.  I have to run my own race and my overall goal of breaking 5 hours looks darn achievable if only I can keep up some kind of forward motion on the run.  Watching my run splits go by I fear it may end up being close.  I end up walking a lot of the uphills even though they don't seem that steep.  I do this every year.  The elevation is around 7500' which isn't super high for me though I realize I do very little running at higher altitudes, it's mostly biking and hiking in the higher country in the summer for me. 

The miles tick by, I end up falling twice for no particular reason.  I'm not hurt but it does cause an adrenaline rush each time that takes a few moments to recover from.  The last mile is a steep downhill and looking at my watch I realize I have a very good chance of breaking 5 hours.  I go as quick as I can and for now the cramp is not bothering me.  I hear the crowd at Snowbasin sooner than I'm expecting and next thing I know the finish line is coming up quick.  They've changed the finish so that we don't have to slog up a steep hill right at the end anymore.  Thank you Xterra for that.  So happy to see that finish line!  I click off my watch at 4:53.  Way ahead of my goal!  Such a great feeling.

The pros have a 2 minute head start so that's not my finishing time.

Yay for the finish line.

My run time is only 1:08 faster than last year and part of that is due to the lack of the final hill and my splits from last year to this are all over the place.  But my overall time is over 31 minutes faster than last year and even with the longer swim last year this is still a huge improvement.  And I felt so much better, especially on the bike.  Such a great feeling when it all comes together.

The only glitch I have is that I forget to put my bottle of 2 servings of UCAN on my bike and the only other fuel I have is a one serving gel flask in my Camelbak that I threw in last minute in case I needed extra.  I stop at the only bike aid station and grab some Powergels which wastes some time because I have to stop to put them in my bike jersey pocket.  I never use them though and the one serving of UCAN (about 50 calories) is the only fuel I have for the whole race and I'm fine, never feel bonky or like I need more fuel.  I'm declaring the high fat/low carb diet a success.  I never got all the way to ketosis but apparently I had enough fat burning adaptation going on to get me through a nearly 5 hour race on only a little UCAN.

Overall very happy with my season and my performance.  Looking forward to an easy recovery week and moving on to fall/winter activities.

Final Stats

Swim:  35:07 swimming time (2:08/100 yd.)
            [47:23 (2:04/100 yards if 2100 m/2297 yards is accurate) last year] 
            188/266 overall (278/342 last year), 58/86 women (84/110 last year), 3/7 age group
            (8/12 last year) 

Run Up Ramp to T1:  1:16 mins. (2:08 last year)

T1 plus run up from beach:  3:01 (2:53 last year)

Bike:  2:42:00/6.71 mph (2:59:20/6.06 mph last year)  240/266 overall (326/342 last year), 73/86
           women (101/110 last year), 5/7 age group (12/12 last year)

T2:  1:51 (1:48 last year)

Run:  1:30:16, 14:27 min/mile (1:31:08/14:27 min/mile last year)    249/266 overall (317/342 last      
          year), 77/73 women (98/110 last year), 6/7 age group (11/12 last year)

    Run Splits:

    Miles 1 and 2:  32:26
    Mile 1:   (18:46 last year)
    Mile 2:   (11:44 last year)
    Mile 3:  16:30 (19:22 last year)
    Mile 4:  15:16 (13:28 last year)
    Mile 5:  14:17  (15:22 last year)
    Mile 6.2:  12:01 (13:07 last year)

Final Time:  4:53:31 (5:24:40 last year),  243/266 overall (315/342 last year),  75/86 women
                    (95/110 last year), 6/7 age group (11/12 last year)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rest Day - Antelope Island

Antelope Island is a great place to spend a rest day.  It's full of wildlife and surrounded by the Great Salt Lake and there are easy trails with little elevation gain so I can let the dogs stretch their legs a bit without wearing mine out.  Just enough walking to keep the blood flowing.  I've been all 3 years I've gone to Nationals and this year didn't disappoint.

We saw loads of bison.

Some were a little too close for comfort.

I'm glad this wasn't my tent.  Not that we were camping anyway.  My camping days are over.  The guy in the visitor's center going on about the wind and lightning and mosquitoes did not make me yearn for any more camping in my life.  But he was there to extend his permit one more day so apparently the hardship was worth it to him.

And of course antelope.

There were Jack Rabbits as well.  Lucky for them Lola can't run anymore.  He was up on his hind legs in a very cute pose but of course as soon as I got the camera pointed he ran away a bit and turned his back to me.

Beautiful mountain views across the lake.  And more buffalo.  Because you can never have enough buffalo.  I always feel bad for Ralphie the CU mascot when I see scenes like this.  Sadly the football team uses an actual real buffalo at their football teams rather than someone dressed in a buffalo suit.   Don't even get me going on that one.

The only bad thing about the island is that traffic is a bitch.  Glad I was in my car and not on my bike. 

There are nice hills on the island as well.  Supposedly there are big horned sheep on the island and I suspect they're up in these hills.  I've never seen them in the lower elevations and the trails up there are steep and not the best for hiking on a rest day so I've never been on them.

The causeway itself is a fascinating feat of engineering but I suspect I might be in the minority with my fascination.

Ah well, time to eat dinner and get my gear organized for tomorrow.  Two transition areas always makes for a fun sorting of gear the night before.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grooving Out Before Nationals - Swim/Run Day

I met my coach for a 10:00 a.m. swim in Pineview Reservoir on a beautiful sunny warm Thursday morning.  Water temp. was 66 degrees according to her thermometer.  Hopefully it'll be that warm on race day.  We only swam about 1/2 an hour, easy peasy pace, so relaxing.  I felt like I could have gone all morning.

Before my swim I let the dogs have at it.  Strummer loves to swim and Lola loves to get knee deep in the water and tell him what's what.

For a moment we wondered if we would be leaving Strummer there because he swam out a little bit and refused to get out when he realized we were leaving.  We got an alarming distance up the beach before he decided life with us wasn't so bad.  Normally he sticks to us like glue, especially when he's somewhere new.  That boy loves the water.

Then I had an easy 20 minute run.  A quick jaunt out to the transition area and back on a nice trail.  I could hear Strummer barking and see people walking away from the car while I was on the trail and when I got back Jonny was back at the car and said some women came up to him and said they were glad to see him because they were worried about the dogs in the car.  We had all the windows open and the rear hatch open and they were wet from swimming.  Both of them were perfectly fine when I got back and the car was plenty cool.  I realize some people are idiots and leave their dogs in hot cars but sheesh some people go too far the other way.

Grooving Out Before Nationals - Bike Day

Thankfully no apocalyptic floods this year so I was able to leave for Utah a few days early.  Yesterday was a pre-ride of the upper portion of the bike course.  We saw a moose family, turkeys and lizards and Jonny also saw some ptarmigans doing their mating dance thing and a marmot.  And of course the fall colors.

Riding up Sardine Peak.  Such an awesome trail.

Sardine Peak

Pineview Reservoir from Sardine Peak.  Thatsa lotsa climbing.

View from Sardine Peak

Near the top of Sardine Peak trail.

Obligatory photo with Snowbasin moose.  For once Lola didn't go off her head.  Maybe she remembered it from last year.

And my lunch buddy.

With this for a view.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fun at the USDAA Trial

Strummer and I competed in a USDAA tournament only trial this weekend, first one I've ever been to and it was very fun.  Classes moved along quicker than normal because there weren't course re-sets and walk-thrus for all the different levels.  I signed us up for 5 classes for both days, way more than our normal load but this will probably be our only trial until November and it's only 18 mins. from the house.  Saturday was long for me even though I was finished by 4:15.  My brain was in a muddle by the last run which thankfully was Speed Jumping and even though I got lost and confused we still managed to only get refusals and qualify for Finals, somehow in second place.  I guess lots of other people were muddled as well.

Some really fun, challenging, interesting courses, some of the best I've run in a while so I thought I'd share some maps and video.  Strummer did surprisingly well on courses that ate up a lot of really great teams.  I combined 4 of my favorite runs in one video which I realize is not ideal but I don't have time to go back and redo them.

Team Standard, MC Standard, MC Jumpers and Speed Jumping Finals

 The challenging part of Team Standard was the dogwalk to the A-frame.  Even people with stopped contacts struggled to get the backside of jump 6 because their contacts weren't independent, ie the dog didn't stop while they caught up and a front, rear or even a blind after 4 put people behind on the dogwalk so many dogs took the front side of 6.  I stayed on the left of the dogwalk and did a rear on the flat.  I called him to me to prevent him taking the wrong side of the jump and he missed his contact but might have missed it anyway and taken the wrong side of 6 if I hadn't called him.  Then 6-9 presented an issue for those of us with fast dogs who didn't want to loose our knees after the tunnel.  I stayed on the left side of the A-frame and was able to run fast enough to pick him up for 9.  It wasn't pretty but we got it done without a refusal.  I knew he'd come out of the tunnel the wrong way but he corrected easily enough.  15-18 proved an issue for some teams but we serped it no problem.  I was initially planning a front at the teeter but decided for a rear at 15 on the fly.  Thought it would be smoother.  Lots of E's on this course, was thrilled to make it through with only a missed dogwalk contact.

I thought MC Standard was easier than Team Standard except for the weave pole entry.  I had a feeling we would miss that.  I have practiced this scenario with a pull but it didn't work as planned.  Most people put a front in between 5 and 6 to make the weave entry easier for the dog.  I thought about it but decided I wanted to try the pull.  And again that knee destroying tunnel challenge at 7.  Not very smooth but we pulled it off.  Missed his dogwalk again but we still ended up in 3rd.

MC Jumpers was maybe the most fun course of the weekend.  I rushed his weave entry and he missed but otherwise he did great.  The fault put us into 2nd place.

Speed Jumping Finals.  Wee Ha Fast and Fun!  I turned a little too soon to avoid the off course jump and again helped botch the weave entry.  But otherwise a great run and a great weave entry off the A-frame.  The bobble cost us the win and we ended up in 2nd by only 1/2 a second.

Unfortunately the battery on my GoPro ran out without me realizing and I missed my Team Jumpers run.  I had spare batteries but the indicator didn't show the battery was low so I thought I had plenty of juice.  Here's the map anyway.  It was our only E of the weekend other than Grand Prix.  We had a back jump at 11 but otherwise a nice smooth run.  This was a challenging course for many and there were lots of E's.  Some had a back jump at 11 like I did, others had the off course jump at 3 because the dog went over 11 with way too much extension.  Others struggled with 13-15 either getting the #9 tunnel or a back jump at 14.  Strum had nice collection over 11, I simply decelerated, stopped and called him but rather than trusting him and continuing on I stood there watching him and for lack of any cues he turned back and took the jump.  I handled the line through 14 with him on my right, did a rear at 14 and a rear I think between 17 and 18.  Push to 19 was no problem.  Was very pleased with his rear at 14 since he struggles with rears in general and this one was a sharp turn.  He read it early enough and had enough collection though so he pulled it off nicely.  Lots of dogs had too much extension and either ended up in the tunnel or back jumping 14.  Some people intentionally turned their dogs to the left over 14 which took more time but was safer for not getting an off course  and easier on the dog if they didn't get a collection cue early enough.  Wish I had video but oh well.

I don't have video for Team Gamblers but this was our most exciting run.  I had an ambitious plan and had to alter it mid-course because I had extra time to I was a bit out of position when the horn blew but we pulled it off with 2 seconds to spare.  1st place and most points of all the dogs, Champ and Perf.  The numbers indicate the opening and the letters indicate the closing.  I'm a little unclear as to when the horn blew so the closing starts with either B or C.  25 obstacles in 38 seconds, that was a run my ass of, seat of the pants run.  And risky because there was a chance he'd blow past the finish jump and be over time and lose his closing points.  Most people did 2 loops of tunnel/tire for their closing or tunnel/tire/jump/teeter.  But the A-frame was the high point obstacle and including it and going for the fast line of jumps at the end seemed like more fun for Strummer rather than all that fussy turning.  A few people that tried this had trouble with the line of jumps at the end, missing G or running past the finish jump.  Also most people went to the left for the opening, taking the start jump/chute/A-frame then doing some combo of jump/tunnel/A-frame then moving on to the dogwalk or weaves to get back to the tunnel by the dogwalk for the closing.

Overall we did pretty well, our PVP Team got a Q in 4th place, Strummer was overall 2nd Team dog for 16" division, 2nd place in both Speed Jumping Rounds, 1st in Team Gamblers, 2nd in Team Standard, other placements kind of a blur.  And of course a 6 point Team Snooker run to keep us humble, his only truly naughty move of the trial when he ran behind me to take a tunnel I wasn't planning.  This happened to many teams.  Kind of my fault for taking my eye off of him and not leading out far enough but still.  Drives me crazy when he darts behind me.

Probably no more trials until November.  Unless I go to a USDAA trial in October which will probably only happen if I don't go to Xterra Nationals.  Which I might not because Jonny had the brilliant idea of let's buy another mountain bike that he absolutely does not need and an espresso machine and we have a huge car insurance bill next month and I'm not willing to dip into savings for a trip.  He seems to think we can pull it off but I'm not impressed with his financial planning skills at the moment so we'll see.  Maybe he has a stash of money lying about somewhere that I'm not privy to.  And yes I'm extremely aggravated.