Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parkour Classes 3, 4, and 5

I'm loving Parkour, so much fun but hard for me.  Physically demanding and many things outside my skill level and comfort zone which is all the more reason to continue to pursue it.

Class 3 was learning to do a handstand.  Supposedly we learned to do cartwheels too but the instructor never called them that.  We learned pirouettes as well which are a way to bail from a handstand.  I'm a long way from getting the handstand but it long been on my list of things I want to learn so I was excited that it was part of class.  I can sort of, kind of do a cartwheel in one direction but the other direction is kind of hilarious.  Nothing approaching a cartwheel.  I sort of remember this was the case when I was a kid as well.

Then we worked on some jumping skills, jumping onto things using a monkey plant, and jumping off of things.

This video shows a conditioning exercise but the first part of it, jumping up on the wall hands first then standing up, is the monkey plant part.

We had the substitute instructor again and I have more trouble understanding him than the regular teacher but I worked out that I just need to know which hand goes where, which foot goes where and if I asked him he gave me a good explanation.  I wasn't the only one confused on this front so it was good that I asked.

Class 4 focused on balance and jumping.  First we worked on balancing on rails on the ground and this is way more difficult than it sounds, much harder than a balance beam.

It took a while but I started to get the hang of it.  So much you can do on a bar on the ground, I ordered a shower grab bar from Amazon and I'm going to find some wood in the garage so I can practice at home.  If I can learn to walk on a smooth, slippy round narrow bar imagine how easy a stream crossing on a wet log will be when I'm trail running?  Plus it's so good to work on balance as you get older, such a bad thing to lose.  And I have ended up in the creek a couple of times so this skill will be invaluable to hiking as well as trail running.  Can't wait until my bar comes, should get here tomorrow and then the fun begins.

Then we worked on jumping.  High squat jumps seeing how high up we could get our knees.  Then broad jumps, seeing how far we could jump.  Then jumping up onto low vault boxes (maybe 1 1/2 feet high or a little higher?) and jumping from one box to the other.  That felt like a huge accomplishment, before this class I was struggling to do box jumps onto something just 6" high.  It's amazing what learning a little technique can do.  I was struggling with jumping from a higher box to a lower box that was a distance away.  Not sure why, totally a mental thing but the instructor encouraged me and moved the box a little closer so I was able to do it eventually.

Very fun class and for the first time I wasn't sore for 3 days afterwards.

Class 5 last night was vaults.  I almost didn't go because it was snowing and the roads weren't fabulous, big multi-car pile-ups on some of the highways, but I took some quiet roads to avoid rush hour traffic and drove like a granny and I was fine both ways.  The 12 minute trip there took about 16 minutes so no big deal.  SO glad I went, vaulting is very very fun.  I was skeptical at first, wasn't sure how much of the vaults I'd be able to do but the instructor broke it down into easy steps and I could do most of it.  By the end of class some vaults were easy but others I hadn't quite gotten the hang of yet.  Mostly I need to practice and convince myself that I have the leg strength to get over.

The Step Vault was the easiest for me and the one I can do the best.

Still working on the Kong Vault.  I'm still having to do a Monkey Plant, ie landing with my feet on top of the wall rather than jumping over without my feet touching.  Again, I need to get to a point where I feel like I have the strength to get over.

This video shows a Kong Vault and the progression to it.

Also not quite there with the Lazy Vault.  I think I got to the point where I had to put just one foot down rather than my butt but it's hard to remember.  We covered so much.

Then there was a vault similar to the Lazy Vault but with the opposite leg coming up first.  I think it was called a Flair Vault but I can't find any video so maybe I've got that wrong.  We didn't do too much with that so I didn't get very far.

Now I need to build a vault box so I can practice.  More Human Agility Equipment to build.  Who says it all needs to be for the dogs?

Only problem is all the snow.  So much snow.  Asstons of snow and more coming.  Maybe I can build a vault box out of snow.  Or maybe that would end badly.  In any case I'm so sore this morning, in addition to all the vaulting we did Tricep Push-Ups for part of our strength workout.  Because regular push-ups aren't hard enough.  Anyway, SO sore today, shoveling the snow off the driveway is going to be enough of a challenge.

Next week we work on Tics Tacs or bouncing off of walls.  Soon Strummer and I will have a lot in common.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Digital Kidnappers

The internet grows ever creepier.  Several months ago I watched an interview with Jamie Bartlett, author of 'The Dark Net', and found the whole thing fascinating and disturbing.  Buying drugs on the Silk Road, groups that encourage anorexia and suicide, neo-Nazi freaks and so forth.  So far disturbing is winning out and I'm not tempted to read the book but there is an element of fascination/staring at the car crash to the weird sick things people get involved in and how easily they get there.

Which brings me to last night's news report about digital kidnapping or baby role playing.  People steal photos of other people's babies and repost them and pretend that they're theirs on social media.  Supposedly it's mostly teenagers engaging in this but still, so creepy and sad and disturbing.  From the news report:

"BabyRP is a growing online community that is mostly made up of teen and tween-aged girls. There are even accounts that act as fake adoption agencies with made up backstories for each photo. Users compete to adopt the picture or role play in the comments section, often typing in "baby talk." Some accounts are more disturbing than others, with users obsessing over naked babies or breast-feeding."

I know, I shouldn't watch the news.

This got me thinking about my own blog.  Because I promise you if people are stealing baby photos they're also stealing dog photos.  If you post photos publicly in a blog you have to realize that they're going to get stolen.  I'm not a professional photographer so as long as my photos aren't being used for nefarious reasons I'm not going to make myself crazy over where my photos end up.  I'm careful about the sorts of photos I post and leave it at that.  Nonetheless the thought of someone constructing a fake life around my dogs is creepy so I did a reverse search on some of my photos and sure enough I found one being used.  At first I clicked on the site but it was taking a while to load and as it was loading I realized it looked sketchy so I quickly closed the window and decided not to go there.  A more generic search brought up communities of people who go on the internet and pretend to be dogs themselves.  After that discovery I decided I was happier living in ignorance about the whole thing.  If some sad teenager wants to pretend that Strummer is theirs, well, all I have to say is she should be careful what she wishes for because he may end up on her doorstep and then she'll be uber sorry.

I didn't dig too deeply into this because again, creepy, I sorta don't want to know.  It seems most of the dogs being poached for this are purebreds and while Strummer is purebred he doesn't look purebred so I'm guessing he's not a prime candidate.  Seemed like mostly Huskies, German Shepherds and a surprising amount of Border Collie/herding dogs were being used.  Also a lot of my photos are taken in the mountains, on trails, in the snow, places that won't work if the kid lives in Kansas or Florida.  They probably go for more generic backgrounds.

Anyway if you keep a blog it's something to think about.  The news article gives directions for doing a reverse search of your images so you can see if they turn up anywhere else.  It also suggests getting an app for putting a watermark on your photos.  Personally I can't be bothered with this but it's something to consider and if the situation turns super creepy I'll probably just stop posting photos of the dogs.  If I had kids I wouldn't post their photos publicly at all but maybe I'm more paranoid than your average mommy blogger.

Think I'll go over to YouTube and see if I can find some kitten videos to wash the ick away.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Strummy and I had a DOCNA trial last weekend.  Very small entry thanks to some big AKC trial in Denver, one of those deals where they have the beauty contest and the agility on the side and who knows what all else.  In any case it made for short, fast paced days at the DOCNA trial which is just how I like them.  On Sunday I was able to sleep in, get 3 runs in and be home by 11:30, just as the first of the flurries of an incoming snow storm were starting.  That's my kind of agility trial.

I was not so happy with the courses though, especially when Sunday's courses were slight variations of Saturday's courses.  I know, every DOCNA trial I bitch about the courses and yet I still enter.  Hard to turn down a trial that's a 17 minute drive though, especially when there are no other trials and not much to do in winter and Strummy loves it so much.

We had some great runs and some not so great.  Several times Strummer flipped away from me to take an off course obstacle.  It's happening more frequently lately and happened at the seminar too.  Tracy said he's very 'subtle', something I've always known and struggled with.  If I don't call his name soon enough to cue convergence and his line takes him over the opposite side of the mid-line of the bar, he continues on his line even if I'm running the other way.  I have to be so precise when I handle him.  This is even more so on the straightforward yee-ha courses.  I have a tendency to abandon him in an effort to keep ahead.  Tracy helped me with this at the seminar but it'll take a while to become more automatic.

Saturday's Runs (Standard, Snakes & Ladders, North American Challenge)

Sunday's Runs (Standard 2 & 3 and Time Gamble)

The flipping away is obvious on the NAC run on Saturday's video (last run on video) and on Standard 2 on Sunday's video (2nd run on video).  The course is nearly the same after the tunnel under the dogwalk and both times he's over the bar on the wrong side of the mid-line and takes the off-course A-frame, after jump 15 on the NAC map and after jump 13 on the Sunday Standard map below.  Saturday's Standard course was nearly identical to Sunday's Standard shown below and after going off course in the NAC I did call him to cue convergence and he got the turn no problem so on Sunday I was sloppy about it and once again he was off course onto the A-frame.

This could very well be our last DOCNA trial.  Strum turns 10 next month and is showing no signs of slowing down (he won one of his Standard classes by about 14 seconds and I believe was fastest dog of all heights/divisions) but you never know.  I'll probably skip the 2 summer DOCNA trials.  Last year the August trial had the same exact courses as the year before and I can't be bothered losing a summer weekend of training and/or fun in the mountains to risk doing the same course 3 years in a row.  It's not the judge's fault and DOCNA has really been phoning it in lately with the courses with them being either the same courses we've run before or very similar and similar courses within a weekend.  Money and time in the summer are too precious to squander on these repetitive courses so our next possible DOCNA will be in November when we're back indoors and there's nothing else on the schedule.  Provided Strummy is still running by then.

In the meantime our next trial is USDAA in March in a couple few weeks.  I wasn't going to enter because there's always a big spring snow storm and I either have to eat my entry or I end up spending money on a hotel when I live just over an hour away.  I hemmed and hawed and finally decided not to go but yesterday I was lamenting not having a trial until May when I got an email from someone last night looking for a last minute team.  In general my motto is, 'When in doubt say yes' so I agreed.  At least the club has a cheap hotel rate of $64 with the La Quinta so if I get stuck down there it's not too bad of an expense and the hotel is nice, I stayed there last year.  Should be fun and I'm looking forward to it - Team and Biathlon, my favorites.

We were able to sneak in a fun agility practice yesterday with our training partner before the incoming snow storm.  People get so wound up about storms around here and I'm guessing it'll be about 8 inches, not so atypical for the Denver area in February.  So funny coming from Chicago and seeing how people let the media wind them up about snow.  I made the mistake of stopping at the store at noon on my way home yesterday and wow, it was like Christmas, I had to drive around the lot to get a parking spot and I thought a fight was going to break out at one point.  You would think the Zombie Apocalypse was coming.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tracy Sklenar Seminar

I had a day and a half of International Handling with Tracy Sklenar at FRAT's annual seminar and it was very awesome.  I have a lot to practice.  Strum turns 10 next month but that doesn't mean he can't learn new stuff.  I finally understand what a Jaako turn is as opposed to a Ketschker, or at least my understanding of a Ketscher.  And I finally understand what a German Turn is.  And a Lap Turn, Reverse Spin (I was calling it Top Spin), Reverse Wrap.  So much jargon, I know, but it's nice to have words that make sense to me.  Tracy had explained everything clearly and I've got video of her doing some of the turns so I can get a good idea in my head of what they're supposed to look like.  She has a nice system of using letters of the alphabet to help you decide which turn you need. So for example an S-shaped turn would be a German Turn.  So easy to walk a course, think about the shape of the turn you want then know which turn to use.  Easy peasy.

I put together a montage of our runs and it doesn't look so bad but wow, going through the video it looks like I was struggling more than I realized.  To be fair I was choosing the most challenging handling options for us so I could get some help with them but still.  I had some physical things going on, especially on Monday (the later runs on the video).  Came home Monday after the morning session and had a not so fun day and night of fever chills/sinus pressure/brain fog.  Which explains why I was struggling with a simple blind cross in one of the exercises and hey, watch me do a reverse spin in the wrong direction on the video.  Sheesh, at least I had a reason and I was tired on Sunday and had a bad night of twitchy legs and constantly waking up in a sweat on Saturday so it had probably started on Saturday.  Didn't feel sick until I got home Monday though so didn't realize it at the time.  I don't think it was a virus, probably an endometriosis attack.  Had the genius idea a month ago that I no longer needed to take the birth control pills which control my symptoms.  Guess I'm not quite ready to give them up.  Started back on them on Monday night and by Wednesday I was able to see my clients again and felt totally back to normal.  Also had some pasta for lunch on Saturday which I'm sure didn't help, especially with the brain fog.  I've had pasta only 4 times in the past year, I was desperate for a quick lunch and Noodles was the first place I saw.  I'm usually good about packing my own lunch but I had a crazy day with clients suddenly wanting to come in on Friday then cancelling then wanting to come it, etc.  Didn't quite get to the store to buy salad stuffs.

Video Montage

The seminar was 2 weekends ago, had a DOCNA trial this past weekend and I'll post about that later as well as more parkour fun.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Falling is an Art?

Second parkour class was SO fun.  This week we focused on rolls, challenging but a great feeling when it went right.  Our regular instructor was there and he's great, explains things very well, breaks things down when things don't go right, gives great tips to do it better.  He's more into the old school version of parkour where it's all about strength and doing stuff on the ground and not so much the flashy spins and jumps.  Which sounds perfect to me, that's exactly what I'm looking for.  Strength, movement, fluidity.  Not really looking to jump off of rooftops.  Not yet anyway, we'll see how hooked I get on this stuff.

Here what the beginner roll looks like.

We did sideways rolls and backwards rolls as well.  Rolls with a jump from a small height with a little drop.  I opted out of the dive rolls, not feeling ready for those yet.  Then rolls into quadrupedal movements from last week.  So much fun and lots of ways to mix it all up and be creative.  In just 2 classes I know plenty of stuff though it'll take some practice to get the moves down so they're more fluid and automatic. 

Then some strength work.  Chin ups with scapula (shoulder blades) engaged and palms facing forward.  Very challenging.  I could only do 2 consecutively and we were supposed to do 5.  I usually do chin ups with palms facing forward but this position is not good for pulling yourself over a wall so I'll have to do more palms forward.  Something else to work on. 

So sore though, spent a fitful night with twitchy legs.  Probably a hydration issue, forgot to drink a bunch of water when I got home.  Hopefully I won't be as sore in 2 days as I was last week.  Glad I didn't try this during tri season.

Agility seminar this weekend so maybe I'll have some interesting things to pass on next week.  I've got a couple of working spots with Tracy Sklenar doing international type handling and I may audit a Loretta Mueller session, we'll see.  Have no idea about either instructor so it'll be interesting.  Supposed to be in the 50's and 60's over the weekend so I may get antsy and want to be outside instead of a dusty horse arena.