Thursday, January 29, 2015

Parkour Take 1

I've been wanting to try parkour for years now but at the same time I've suspected that it's one of those things where the idea of it sounds better than the reality.  But one of my projects for the winter is to improve movement, range of motion, strength, etc. and not just for triathlon but for life in general.  I want to be able to move easily, smoothly, supple leopard-like.  I've been working with the functional movement specialist for range of motion, neuromuscular type stuff, etc.  I had 2 weeks of a set of exercises and now I've progressed to the next level.  I had some improvements from the tests she did 2 weeks ago though it felt to me like she wasn't pressing as hard though it could be that I did get better so it didn't feel as hard.  I'll go back in 2 weeks and hopefully that will be it.

As for the parkour, I finally decided to pull the trigger.  I went to watch a class first to see what was involved but the secretary had told me the wrong time so no beginner class was going on when I got there.  Instead I spoke with the owner, told him about my surgeries and bad knees and middle aged-ness and he assured me I'd be fine in the introductory class.  The instructor could modify things for me if there was something I couldn't do or I could sit out if I wasn't comfortable with something.  Sounded perfectly reasonable.

Until I got to class.  The class was huge for the size of the area we had to work.  Very cozy.  The instructor looked a bit overwhelmed and called another instructor over to help.  We started with a 10 minute warm-up that was mostly stuff I already do to warm up for running, no problem so far.  Then the instructor brought us over to an obstacle course that we were supposed to run.  And he was timing us.  No instruction and the only thing he let us practice ahead of time was a wall we had to run up then hoist ourselves over onto a platform at the top.  The wall is circled in the photo below.

Because this totally looks like something a 50 year old beginner with bad knees can do.

The instructor had to put his leg out for me to use a little for leverage on the practice run.

The course also involved balancing on these metal bars on the ground.

Here's a single bar

But we had more than one bar.  First we had to stand on one bar and jump to a second bar that was maybe 2 feet or so away.  Just far enough to be hard.  Then we had to walk across a line of the bars stacked end to end of each other.  I managed to stand on the first bar.  Just.  But when I jumped onto the second bar I couldn't stick the landing and ended up on my ass.  The instructor looked worried but I got up and was o.k.  Then I had a hard time staying on the rest of the bars.  I did make it up the wall on my own during the test but I skinned my knees.  There were tunnels to crawl through and walls to climb over in between all of this and those parts were fine.

Then once on the platform at the top of the big wall we had to climb down bars like the ones on the floor except they were on the wall.  I drew them in red on the photo below.  Then touch the black metal bar and you're done.  Except you have to make your way out of the foam pit which is not as easy or fun as it looks.  This photo must have been taken when they first put the foam in.  It is not so clean and shiny looking now.  Thankfully I was not being timed on how long it took me to get out of the foam pit.  And hopefully I won't end up on YouTube.

All of this in the first 20 minutes of class.  I was ready to go to the front desk and beg for my money back at that point because this was not at all what I had in mind.  But I stuck it out and the rest of class was great, exactly what I was hoping for.

We started off learning quadrupedal movement, or moving on the ground on all fours.

Basic Quadrapedal Movement

Quadrupedal Gallop

Ground Kongs

Quadrupedal Side Lunge

Crab Walk

Very cool stuff, I'm excited to practice it and I think it'll give me exactly what I'm looking for in terms of mobility, strength, supple leopard-ness.  Plus FUN.

We also worked on air squats, something I've been working on on my own but I was very happy for having some feedback.  Turns out I'm doing o.k. with them but can turn my knees out a little more.  For some reason I was getting light headed/dizzy when I'd stand up from them though.  Will have to watch that, don't want the embarrassment of passing out in class.  I have low blood pressure and often have issues with this when getting up from sitting for a long time or laying down but I've never had it before from squats.

Then we worked on jumping straight up and landing quietly in a squat.  Not sure I was doing that right, we didn't get a whole lot of instruction on how to land quietly.  Guess it's a trial and error type thing.  This is something I want to work on and get better at.  I think it'll help my running and save my knees.  Those parkour guys move like cats and that's my goal.  Supple leopard all the way.

Now if I can just get over the SORE.  My quads were sore and twitchy last night from the squats but at about 3:00 this afternoon the hurt settled into my arms and chest.  The quadrupedal movement works the upper body a lot more than I realized at the time.

The funniest part of the evening was when I first got there and was waiting in the reception area for class to start.  I saw an old co-worker of mine from my engineering days, a woman about my age who had quit to have kids.  She was there waiting for her kids and I had to explain to her that yes, I was there to take a class.  Because normal 50 year olds go to parkour gyms to pick up their kids, not to skin their knees and fall on their ass.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boulder Valley Fun in the Sun

Another day in the 70's and the Boulder Valley Trails are finally dry except for a wee bit of ice on Ice Hill.  So I dusted off the bike and hit the dirt.  I feel lucky to have these trails so close by.

I always love this view, so bucolic.

It's hard to see the prairie dogs in this photo but the trail goes right through a dog town and it makes me happy to hear their chirping.  City of Boulder got rid of the dog town by my house because the prairie dogs were getting down into the park next to the open space and hell hath no fury like a soccer mom worried that her prodigy will twist an ankle.  Never mind that the park was never meant to be used for soccer, it was supposed to be a buffer between the open space and the neighborhoods.  But in the land of rich people and politics the prairie dogs don't stand a chance.

Though one of the crazy buggers nearly took both of us out by running across the trail practically under my wheel.  Still not sure how I missed him.

Boulder Rez

Felt so good to be out on the trails on my bike.  I was even overheating at one point, I'm not acclimated to 70 degrees but it felt good to be sweating in the sun in nearly February.  One other bonus was that I was able to ride some of the little singletrack trails that are off the main path.  I don't go on those in the summer because of rattlesnakes.  I couldn't help watching out for snakes, had to keep reminding myself that they're enjoying their winter slumber.

Got home to a sassy Miss Lola.  She had some words for me.

And then she had a quick power nap.  Because that's how it goes when you're old.

She sprang back to life quickly enough when I busted out the goat leg bones from the farmer's market.  Love to see happy, peaceful dogs gnawing away in the sun.

Snow is supposed to return on Friday but this little break has been a special treat.  Love those little windows of warmth that we get in Colorado in winter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Feels Like Spring

We usually get a few warm dry days in January and this year is no exception.  T-shirt weather for our hike at Hall Ranch yesterday.

Trails were muddy in places but that just added to the fun.  No dogs allowed at Hall but sometimes it's nice to have a carefree hike without having to worry about crazy dogs.  It also makes for a less crowded trail.

Strum goes with most of the time so I don't feel bad about leaving him behind once in a while.  And he had a walk/hike before we went so he wasn't completely neglected.

In other news we have a serial killer in our neighborhood.  Jonny and I have come across three separate deer kills between us in the past few weeks.  Probably a mountain lion but could be coyotes.  The city removed an huge prairie dog town on the open space where there are lots of coyotes and they could be desperate for other food sources.  Whatever it is is killing at night when I'm seldom out so I'm not too worried but maybe it's time to get the BAU involved.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

FRAC January USDAA Trial

Gotta love a USDAA trial 20 minutes from my house.  It was 3 days though and that's at least one too many for me.  But the plus side is that I got to spread out Strummer's runs so he was never doing too much in one day.

Very fun trial, laid back atmosphere and the judge was crazy efficient, the days moved along at a quick clip and we were done early all 3 days.  Great courses too, challenging, fun.  I'll share the course maps for those who want to play along.

Fancy Jumpers was one of my favorites.  Had one little blip of an off course at 9 (he took 10), took my eye off him for too long as I ran between the jumps to get into position for a front cross after 8.  Shouldn't have run so far, should have stopped earlier and re-connected a little quicker.  Otherwise a great run.  I'll post video below the course maps.

Master Challenge Standard

Steeplechase Round 1

Masters Standard, Pairs, Jumpers and Steeplechase Finals

Masters Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, Grand Prix

So glad I didn't sign up for Gamblers.  Had a much better morning sleeping in and making a nice breakfast than I would have had trying to attempt that gamble.  Not many people got it.

Here's the video.

Friday - Masters Challenge Standard and Jumpers and Steeplchase Round 1

Saturday - Masters Standard, Steeplechase Finals, Jumpers (day is labeled wrong in the video)

Sunday - Masters Standard, Grand Prix

Strum hit a lot of dogwalks this weekend and got some weave pole entries.  Don't think he had any teeter calls, missed an A-frame or two.  Overall I was happy with his obstacle performance, could be better but seemed like he was doing better than he normally does.  Most of the errors were timing issues on my part or losing too much connection.  I like working on handling but not obstacle training mostly because I don't have easy access to obstacles any more.  The field where I've always done my training has become so busy at the times I try to go, I haven't been there in eons.  At the trial a woman told me she's moving just 15 minutes or so away from me and that when she moves in I can use her place anytime I want, I can just drop by which is an amazing generous offer.  We'll see how that works out.

Next USDAA trial is in March and I'm still waffling about whether or not to enter and if so which days.  There's always a snowstorm that weekend and the trial site is just over an hour's drive so I end up either not going and eating my entry fee or having to pony up money for a hotel room.  Plus there's so much construction on the drive there and I have to go through the entire length of Denver.  Not feeling the love at the moment but we'll see.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

World Championships Part Two

I got an email last night titled 'Team USA Sardinia Slot Awarded' and I almost deleted it because it sounded like spam.  In the end I threw caution to the wind and clicked on it and it turns out I qualified for another World Championship in addition to Xterra Worlds in Maui.  This one is the ITU Off Road World Championships being held in May in Sardinia, Italy and I would be representing USAT's Team USA.  Which is all a lot of confusing alphabet soup even to me and it's the first I've ever heard of this race.  All these world championships sound like a marketing scam.  But racing at a world championship in Italy sounds super fun, way more fun than racing in icky sticky Maui.  Except for the part of having to deal with USAT which is the main triathlon cartel, er, sanctioning body in the U.S. whose sole purpose seems to be to separate me from my money.  Already in the email they want a non-refundable $50 fee by Jan. 25th for me to reserve my spot on Team USA.  A fee that does not count towards my entry fee, it only reserves my spot on the team.  Entry fees are '$150-$400 depending on the race' which is interesting because ITU charged 85 euros (about $100 at current exchange rate) for entry last year, a nice profit for USAT.  Then they require me to spend $200 on their dorky team uniform which I would never in a million years wear anywhere else.  Then there's a 'user fee' that is 'subject to be changed each season based on the event's location'.  Who knows what the final cost is just to enter the event never mind all the expenses?

Speaking of which, USAT also has a 'special' hotel package for athletes that runs $150-$250 per person per day because, you know, Europe is super expensive.  You're not required to take their package but athletes who book their own hotel 'do so at the expense of lost team camaraderie'.  I guess USAT team camaraderie is also super expensive because I'm pretty sure I can find a hotel room in Italy for less than $300-$500 a day for Jonny and me.  No idea what the entry fee is to this race or what the course is like, none of that info. has been announced yet.  Then there's a rental car, gas, food, and whatever other expenses USAT will dream up to nickel and dime me.  All of a sudden this in not looking so appealing. 

But then again neither does the $475 entry fee for Xterra Worlds and the also super expensive hotels in Maui never mind the plane fare for either trip.  I'm not sure my desire to race at a World Championships equals the substantial hit I'll take to my pocket book either way.  Jonny and I could take a lot of nice short biking trips around Colorado this summer for a fraction of the cost and hassle.  When it comes to validation vs experience, experience wins every time.  But I think I'll keep the goal of being good enough to qualify and go.  In the meantime USAT can extract their pound of flesh from someone else.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Moving It or Losing It

I went to a Functional Movement Specialist yesterday to see if she could help me with my running.  I'm at wits end with the running.  At this point I feel like it's likely possibly range of motion issues and tightness somewhere, maybe lots of places, that are holding me back and causing my knee pain.  I've been working my way through the book 'Ready to Run' and it's been a slow process.  I don't know if I'm doing the exercises properly nor do I know if I'm focusing on the correct exercises.  As it turned out I sort of was, sort of wasn't. 

Functional Movement is big in the Crossfit world and I went to a local Crossfit gym for my appointment.  That was an experience in itself.  SO loud.  The music was set to ear splitting, floor vibrating, hearing loss volume.  Or maybe I'm just too old.  But the woman was good, supposedly the only functional movement specialist in all of Colorado so I was happy not to have to travel outside of Boulder to see her, and she did a thorough job of an exam.  Recounting my ridiculously long history of injuries, accidents, surgeries, etc. was hilarious, or maybe depressing, I'm not sure which but I surprised myself by all I had to say.  I suppose if you're 50 and have been active your whole life it's hardly a shocker but it kind of was to me.

Then there was video of me doing various exercises, including an air squat which I've been working on, and running both barefoot and in my running shoes/orthotics.  Lots came out of that, some of it I've known for a long while, other stuff was new to me.  Then there was a physical exam, a typical sort of PT exam where they look for weaknesses by having you resist against them moving various body parts in various poses.  Some new stuff there too and some stuff that verified what showed up in the video.  In short I have weak, fallen arches (I've known that for 15 years hence the orthotics)  and a tight thoracic spine (news to me).  I was deliberately ignoring the thoracic spine exercises in the book because they were confusing and I didn't think that was one of my problems anyway.  So right there the exam was worth the price of admission.  And WOW tight adductors (ie your horse riding muscles).  SO tight.  I had no idea.  The foam rolling of the adductors this morning was by far the worst of all the exercises.

I've got a set of 10 exercises to work on, a combination of foam rolling exercises, foot strengthening, spine loosening and core engaging exercises.  None of these are strength exercises, other than the foot exercise, they're more for getting the muscles firing properly, basically trying to re-connect brain signals with body movements and function.  Exactly what I was hoping for because when I try to run I feel like my brain is giving my body signals and my body is not responding as I think it should.  So fingers crossed this treatment will work.  I've also got a bunch of kinesio tape on my back and stomach that is supposed to help with the brain/body connection.  I remain skeptical of this tape in general but it's not bothering me in any way and in this application I can see how it might maybe sorta work.  Worst it'll do is nothing so why not.  Well unless the glues from the adhesive absorb into my skin and are harmful but this didn't occur to me until I'd already been wearing it for several hours so the horse was out of the barn there.  I'll do some more research into the tape later but for now I'm off to a  late-starting USDAA agility trial.  Biathlon and Steeplechase today - my favorites!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Fashion Maven

Never a dull moment when you have a Strummer in the house.  Last night I turned around and spotted him sporting my purse.  I guess he's secure in his manhood.

I'm not sure where the purse was or how (or why) he managed to get it around his neck but it's one more thing I'll have to keep an eye on because he could easily strangle himself.  I'm amazed he's made it to nearly 10 without requiring surgery or some other medical intervention.  Keeping this dog safe and alive has not been an easy task.

I'm going to see a Functional Movement Specialist later today to see if she can help me with my running for both agility and triathlon.  I've been working my way through 'Ready to Run' and it's been interesting but also challenging because I have no idea if I'm doing the mobility exercises properly or if I've diagnosed my issues properly so that I'm focusing on the right exercises.  I'm to a point where I feel like I need someone who knows what they're doing to watch what I'm doing, assess what my specific issues are and tell me exactly what I need to work on.  Should be interesting, stay tuned.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Holiday Hikes

Stupid Facebook, I've developed the habit of posting a few quick photos on Facebook and neglecting the blog.  Well no longer.  I've been neglecting Facebook for the past 2 months or so and it feels fantastic.  I check it occasionally because people use it like email and I like to get my messages.  I did feel bad when I checked after 2 days and found that a nice lady had taken some photos of Strummer at the last DOCNA trial and wanted my real email so she could send them to me.  Hopefully she wasn't too put off that I took 2 days to respond.  Other than that it feels liberating to be free of the place.  I occasionally check my messages and  whatever couple few posts are at the top of my feed and sometimes something like the Boulder Nordic Club to see if they've groomed the parks near my house or similar type groups to get info. on things.  Facebook has it's purpose and place but for me the less I go there the better I feel.

Thanksgiving hike at Hall Ranch.  It was t-shirt weather despite the snow on the ground at the higher elevations.

A smear of rainbow in the clouds over Hall Ranch.

Was expecting more snow over the twin peaks (Meeker and Longs).

Silly deer.

Christmas hike with Strummer at Walker Ranch.  A light snow started falling while we were hiking but we made it back to the car before the big storm hit.  Beautiful magical day.

Storm blowing in over Walker Ranch.

View of the plains below.

Silly Strum.

Practicing the dark art of  diving rods or 'water witching'

And finally some in-town skiing at North Boulder Park after the storm.  It was a perfect day except for the crowds that amassed.  It wasn't too bad when I got there but I had to leave after 45 minutes or risk ending up on the 5:00 news.  Boulder has reached the tipping point of Too Many People but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Sitting in the Waiting Room

"I am a patient boy
I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait
My time is water down a drain

Everybody's moving
Everybody's moving
Everything is moving,
Moving, moving, moving

Please don't leave me to remain"

Fugazi - 'Waiting Room'

I don't normally pay too much attention to the end of the calendar year in terms of goal setting or accomplishments mostly because it's a period of down time for me.  Not much going on triathlon wise in December and agility has no season so no natural time for large scale reflection especially since we didn't do any national events this year.

But I did have a huge accomplishment on New Year's Day, at least it felt like it to me, a good summing up of agility for the year.  I rented some indoor ring time with my training partner since outdoors is a frozen snowy tundra and a pent up Border Collie is never a good thing.  New places, especially indoors, are a challenge for Strummer even at nearly 10 years old.  And my training partner has started running her new dog, a very fast exciting youngster.  Especially if you're Strummer.  He' been able to wait his turn with a loose leash, flat collar (ie no gentle leader), no treats while practicing in her backyard with her older dog for at least the past year, maybe even 2 or 3 years, hard to remember exactly when that miracle happened.  For the entire rest of his life he's needed a gentle leader and my full attention when around any kind of agility practice or competition.  Agility - so exciting!  When I first got him and he was anywhere near a dog doing agility he'd be up on his hind legs screaming, kicking me with his front legs if I was stupid enough to try to body block him which I was stupid enough to try once.  The bruises on my arms and legs were so bad that the chiropractor asked me if I'd taken up rugby.  We spent his first agility class holed up in the equipment trailer working on 'calm' when it wasn't his turn.  And I didn't even try to take him to a class until I'd been working with him for a couple few years and he was up to intermediate level handling.

Not the world's most relaxing dog.

New Year's Day practice started off with a return to Crazy. No barking or screaming but plenty of whining and trying to pull my arm out of its socket.  Back to the gentle leader.  Sigh.  He turns 10 in March.  At least he behaves in his gentle leader.

But after he'd had his turn and some time to cool down outside he calmed down enough to go on his flat collar for the rest of the practice.  Here he is showing off his crazy mad 'waiting his turn' skills.

Yes, I know, a video of my dog standing there watching agility, I'm well aware of the absurdity.

I'm also well aware that he is anything but calm.  The panting, the tongue flicks, the antsy prancing in place, the tension in the leash, etc. etc. etc.  I get it that's he's not relaxed.  But the other thing he's not is up on his hind legs scream barking and trying to dislocate my shoulder.  Victory is mine.