Sunday, August 30, 2015

UKI Trial - Onward to Nationals?

This was by far the most fun trial of the year.  I love UKI but we have so little of it.  At least this year there were 2 full trials and a one day trial.  But all of them 2-2+ hours away and in summer during peak triathlon training season.  And one on 4th of July weekend which is not a weekend you want to be on the roads if you can help it.  I know, whine whine whine.  But I hate the driving, SO MUCH, especially driving from Boulder to and through Denver with the traffic and construction and stupid Broncos game traffic or whatever it was that brought the highway to a standstill on my way home.  Thankfully there is a bypass so I wasn't in the parking lot for too long.  Takes a little longer but at least it was moving.  But still, 2 hours 20 minutes stuck in the car on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. O.k., enough whining about the growing traffic situation of Too Many People on the Front Range.  On to UKI.

First round for us was Agility.  Here's the course map.

And the video.

Fun course but I was super rusty and Strummer was wound up and flying around the course.  Not a great combination but somehow we managed a Q.  He has no masters level standard agility Q's in USDAA after how many years and somehow he pulls off one in UKI?  He hasn't trialed since May and we've barely practiced in the past few weeks due to heat and schedule conflicts with my training partner.  And let's not even get into the soreness and fatigue in my legs from training and the big quad busting climb on my bike the day before.  Maybe that's the key to success?  Don't practice and work your way into physical exhaustion.  Sounds like a plan.

 Then on to Masters Series Agility or Super Fancy Agility as I call it.

It wasn't pretty but we got it done without an off course.  Elements of it were similar to regular Agility so we had a little practice from the previous run.

Then on to regular Jumpers.  The one thing I don't like about UKI is weave poles in the jumpers courses.  Strummy got his entry but popped out for some reason.  I think I slowed down a bit to praise him and he thought something was wrong but who knows.

Next was Masters Series Jumping.  I don't have video because I turned the camera off when I thought I was turning it on.  Because I'm a genius that way.  We had just a refusal, I forget where.  I know he got his weave entrance so it wasn't that.  Again some similar challenges to regular Jumpers.

 And finally Speedstakes which is my favorite class and the one I was sure we would Q in.  No weave poles, fast straight forward course, perfect for Strummy.  But I rushed my handling after Jump #6 and didn't give enough forward cue to Jump #7 causing him to back jump #6.  Oh well. 

Overall he got 4/4 weave pole entries which is pretty darn amazing for him though admittedly the entries played to his strengths.  Also got both teeters and A-frames and 1/2 dogwalks.  Can't complain about his obstacle performance especially since he hasn't been on obstacles since May except maybe the odd weave pole or teeter at my training partner's house.  My handling though, yeesh, I need to practice for me.

Overall he ended up getting a Q in the Masters Series and a bye to the Finals Round at Nationals.  And he won a small sum of money which was a surprise to me.  Didn't know you get money for Masters Series.  Now, do I want to drive for 3 days to go to Perry, GA for Nationals?  This was not even a blip on a blip of my radar.  I can't imagine all that driving.  6 total days of driving for 3 days of agility and realistically only a few minutes total of time in the ring?  Agility is a bad bang for your buck/time when it comes to competition.  But it might be a fun experience and I've never been to the south.  And it would almost certainly be my last opportunity at a Nationals competition with Strummer.  He's 10 1/2 and still going strong but who knows for how long.  And I have no youngster waiting in the wings so it would be years before I could ever go to another Nationals.  But Three Days Of Driving.  Then turn around and do it again 3 days later.  Hmmmm.

In all we got 5 runs in and were done by just past noon.  And I didn't even enter Gamblers which ran first, could have been 6 runs.  I wish agility was always like that, I'd be more inclined to drive the 2 hours each way.  But wow, only 4 dogs in the masters classes.  Total, all heights, and Strummy the only one in his class.  Personally I don't mind but it's probably not sustainable for clubs to have that kind of turnout.  And where was everybody?  I know it's a drive but if I can do it all the way from Boulder, sheesh, it's not so bad from Denver.  But I think people are entrenched in their pursuit of titles and there isn't enough of a critical mass of UKI trials yet to interest people.  I would much rather have interesting, challenging courses than worry about titles.  They're mostly a marketing gimmick anyway to get people hooked and keep them coming back.  Why not try something new rather than trotting around the pinwheels weekend after weekend for MACH 107?  Ah well, you can't tell people what they should enjoy doing.  Just wish we had more UKI and closer to home.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hosetooth Open Water Swim

A friend from masters convinced me to do this race.  Which took some doing because I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get up to Fort Collins in time for the 5:30-6:30 check-in.  For a swim race.  If not for her there's no way I would have signed up for this on my own.

The drive there in the dark was a bit harrowing because it's country roads with lots of twists and tight turns that you can't see in the dark.  And suicidal bunnies.  Lots and lots of suicidal bunnies.  I told my friend please to hit the bunny rather than swerve into a ditch if it comes to it.  Thankfully it didn't come to it.  I know, I sound mean, I love bunnies, nobody wants to hit a bunny, but I also love living and not ending up in a ditch.

It was a chilly morning, 45 degrees or so when we got there and the sun never made it up over the mountains before race start.  Thankfully I brought a hat.  And did jumping jacks and high knees running.  Lots of high knees running.

Before.  Waiting it out in the chill.

Thankfully the water was supposedly 72 degrees, maybe even a little warmer, so I was fine once I got going.  72 degrees and a chilly air temp. is no problemo in a wetsuit but kind of a problemo without a wetsuit for some people who ended up with hypothermia.

The sun came out while we were swimming and it turned into a beautiful morning for me in my nice toasty wetsuit.

Horsetooth Rez

I was warned that the race was disorganized and it sort of was but not completely.  Parking, check-in went off without a hitch but the course description?  Major confusion.  They kept explaining it over and over during the pre-race meeting but there were 2 people who took turns explaining different courses.  Then at the start line the starter woman explained a different course.  But since she was the last person to tell us, that's the course I followed even though it made no sense whatsoever.  And of course it was wrong and the kayakers came out and shooed all of us over to the correct course.  Then at the end lots and lots of people skipped the last buoy and cut the course.  By a LOT.  I think more people cut the course than did it correctly.  And the kayakers let them all go.  I was there for training not awards so I wasn't bent out of shape but sheesh, it's a race, it should be fair for everybody.

I pushed hard the whole way, did a good job of keeping focus for once.  My wave was small, only 52 people so I wasn't able to draft much or practice working in the crowd which was my main motivation.  But I did get to see where I am with my swimming and what my current race pace feels like.

I ended up winning my age group in the wetsuit division as did my friend.  I was second woman overall and she was fourth.  A very good day for the Boulder BAM ladies.

After.  Showing off our bling.

Of course I left my medal in my friend's car but she took a nice photo of both of them.

The race was 1.2 miles and I swam exactly 1.20 miles according to Garmin.  Time was 38:37 for a pace of 1:50/100 yards, about my typical race pace.  Kind of frustrated that I can't seem to get any faster but also kind of happy that I'm not losing speed with age so far.  My swim time for Nat's. last year was 2:08/100 yards but the course was crowded, especially at the start, and I didn't go too crazy because it's a long day.  Also hard to know how accurately the course was measured or how accurately I swam it, I didn't have my Garmin and there is much weaving because of the crowds.  Anyway, I can expect to swim something similar this year, gives me a good idea of pacing and coming up with a race plan/goals.

Had some hill repeats later in the day.  Those could maybe have gone better but in addition to being tired from the race we had some remaining haze from the zillions of wildfires out west.  It wasn't horrible but it wasn't great.  Thankfully only seemed to make it a bit harder to breath while running and didn't have any effects once I stopped.  Some people were bothered by smoke at the race and it only just occurs to me that it could have effected my pace though I can't say that I noticed the smoke at all and the pictures aren't crazy hazy though supposedly the smoke was at its worst in the morning.  Thankfully much better here today.  Hopefully they'll get those fires under control soon.  Not good for anybody.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fear and Loathing at the DMV

I gave myself the not very fabulous birthday present of forgetting that my driver's license was expiring and thus not renewing it online a month earlier like a normal person.  So yesterday I turned 51 and today I remembered about the license and discovered the very sad making reality of 30 days to renew your license online.  And I remembered this at about 9:45 a.m. so I couldn't even go early.

If you show up this late at the Boulder DMV during the week that the students come back you will have a nearly 2 hour wait.  Luckily I live 7 minutes away so I went home, did stuff and came back a bit early on the impossible chance that they would be running early and I would miss my number being called.  I know, I love making people spit up onto their computer screen.  Of course they weren't running early.

Lots of students there.  Most of them fairly patient and docile despite the hostile environment of the DMV and the energy of the unfortunate people who were not having good days at the DMV.  The students had their noses in their gizmos, I was the only one there reading a real honest to goodness in the flesh book.  From the library even.  Very Old Timey.

Until I was jolted from my book by a very modern problem.  One of the students found himself slipping into the 'Not Having a Good Day at the DMV' crowd.  And he responded with much screaming and swearing and aggression.  And even at the Boulder DMV it doesn't matter if you are rich or your mother never taught you Manners or you came from California, these days if you start scream swearing at the government workers they are going to threaten to call the police.  Or 911.  Or somebody who will make your day even worse.

But it doesn't stop there.  Because even if you're a rich, pompous Boulderite you still have to lower yourself to go to the DMV to take your teenager for his driving test.  And you just can't help pointing out the obvious.  'This young man has an anger management problem,'  blurts out Captain Obvious.  Which as anybody who is not a pompous Boulderite knows is the last thing what you want to say to some impulse control challenged crazy guy losing it at the DMV.  So of course his anger escalates and he turns on Captian Obvious.  Who is sitting across the aisle from me.  And while I'd like nothing better than to see this throw down from a distance, I'm all too close to the action.  Thankfully I have a clear shot to the exit doors but before I need to bolt it finally occurs to everybody that the best thing to do in this situation is to shut up and not start punching each other.  Or worse.  That 'No Firearms' sign I was laughing at earlier suddenly doesn't seem so funny.  Because of all the ways that your life can end I think losing it in the DMV to some crazy guy who needs to learn how to take a deep breath is one of the worst.

Thankfully I emerge unscathed with my temporary driver's license and a sworn oath to myself that I will never ever forget to renew my license well in advance online.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Do ALL the Things

Normally I'm not a fan of this.  Do ALL the things.  Too many races or agility trials or whatever.  Busy all the time, so not my thing.  I'd rather do a few things and savor them.  Take time to relax, enjoy, reflect.  Those 3 day USDAA trials with a million runs a day, doubled or tripled if you have multiple dogs, ummmm, not so much for me anymore.  The whole thing ends up becoming a blur, can't remember my runs, can't remember whatever lessons I learned from them.  Same thing for too many races.  Barely recover from one then it's time to start tapering for the next.  And yet somehow this year I ended up with 2 Xterra races in one weekend and something on the docket every weekend this month except for this one.  How did it happen?  How did I let my schedule slip away from me?  I had a swimming friend talk me into a race at Horsetooth Reservoir and there was the Xterra and pre-ride for the Xterra at the start of the month and then a UKI trial. 

How can I not go to a UKI trial?  Hardly ever any UKI trials around here.  Actually there was one over 4th of July weekend and another one in July but both were 2 hours + away and these days that's far for me to drive for a trial, especially in the summer when I'm already driving all the time to go biking and hiking.  The upcoming trial is also 2 hours away, same location as the July 4th trial but I dunno, I want to go so I'll suck it up and do the drive.  It'll be a nice break from triathlon training and poor Strum gets a bit neglected agility-wise in the summer.  I haven't been to a trial since May.  Very scant practice as well due to heat and difficulty coordinating practice with my training partner.  Again with the Busy.  I'm not a fan of all this Busy.  Actually the agility problem is more heat than Busy.  Those cool early morning hours get booked up quickly and for me the Rez swimming at 6:10 a.m. takes up 2 precious mornings.  Then one weekday Jonny and I go riding.  And of course my partner has her other things on the days I'm available.  Plus agility is so not fun in the hot.

Then there's the issue of Strummer's age.  He turned 10 last March and while he's still going strong, I'm not a fan of double digit dogs doing agility.  So we'll see, maybe UKI is his last trial or maybe we do the flood of trials in the fall/winter that are only 20 minutes away and then retire next summer.  We'll see how he goes.  And I'm really liking having 2 dogs so for now there is no youngster waiting in the wings which I suppose is agility blasphemy but whatever.  TWO dogs is my magic, bestest, happiest number of dogs.

TWO Happy Dogs on our 'new' wood floors.

Actually these floors were under the carpeting the whole time.  SO mad at myself that I didn't check sooner.  We've been living on carpeting unnecessarily for the past 17 years.  Though it was a huge hassle to get the carpeting ripped up and the floors re-finished but that's another story for another day.  In short, I don't recommend Denver Dustless unless you want to come home from your vacation that you took to avoid being home while the work was being done to find the 20 year old Carpet From Hell still on your floor when you return.

On the plus side of Do All The Things, the Snow Mountain Ranch Xterra was my last triathlon of the regular season leaving 6 solid weeks of training before Nationals.  Well, a week of recovery from last weekend's race then a week of taper before Nat's but still, a good solid block of training.  Very excited about that.  And I seem to be in a good place fitness-wise.  I guess the late start to my training due to Rainpocalypse of Spring was maybe a good thing because so far I'm not burnt out on training and looking forward to gearing up for Nat's.  Last year I was so over it all about 2 weeks before Nat's. but this year I feel excited about my upcoming training block and the race itself.  I guess I'll see how I feel 2 weeks out again but I'm feeling optimistic about it all.

Xterra Worlds is still a wild card.  Will I qualify at Nat's. and if so do I even want to go to Maui?  Still not feeling the super love of it.  Would maybe like the experience of going sometime but is this the year?  Because it's the 20th anniversary of the race, Xterra has been releasing footage of all the old races starting with the first race in 1995 on Vimeo.  I've been working my way through them to see if it'll work up some desire to go.  It's funny to see the changes in clothes/gear/equipment over the years, especially mountain bikes, but so far I'm not feeling the love.  Nonetheless I catch myself checking the Xterra Worlds website sometimes and I caught myself asking my coach questions about the race since she's done it many times and is very familiar with it.  Was even asking an open water swimming expert at a masters workout about how to swim into the surf.  If I don't want to go, why am I asking/checking?  I guess a little part of me somewhere is interested.  So for now the race is sort of on my radar on the back burner but not a huge priority or goal.  And if I don't qualify, well, that makes the decision easy.  For now it's all about Nationals and improving my time from last year, especially on the run.  I so want to get my running back.  Been working hard on that but not too hard because running is a great way to break myself if I'm not mindful of what I'm doing.

Hoping to get back to posting a little more.  Been thinking/reading a lot about Flow and have some ideas to write about.  Must get through All The Things though.  Sheesh summer is exhausting.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Xterra Snow Mountain Ranch

This was a small, laid back race, just how I likes 'em, with a beautiful scenic course and very little oxygen.  Elevation ranges between 8700' - 9700' according to Garmin.  In fact I have all the intel on the race according to Garmin and I think I can share it here via links to Strava.  So for those who are interested in the distance, elevation profiles, etc., here you go:  Swim, Bike, Run.  Strava creeps me out a little, kind of weird and creepy that people 'compete' against each other on it but it seems a handy way to share the race data for anybody considering it in the future or anybody who's just curious.

Love those small, laid back races.

I pre-rode the bike course the week before and it was mostly smooth single track with some dirt roads and a few technical bits on 'primitive' trail.  There were a couple of short technical downhill bits that I had to walk and a very steep loose downhill that I came upon unexpectedly with way too much speed in the pre-ride to get off and walk.  My back wheel kept skidding so I had to let off the brake and hope for the best.  Miraculously I made it!  Couldn't believe I got out in one piece.  Didn't press my luck during the race and got off to walk since I knew it was coming though coming at it with more controlled speed it felt like I could have ridden it.  Nonetheless I was taking no chances and decided to walk the short stretch.  Some guy in the race crashed in a gully and had to go to the hospital and I wonder if this was the place because if you were going to crash badly enough to require a hospital visit, that would be the place.  There was a woman on the pre-ride who did road triathlons but this was to be her first Xterra and she was an inexperienced mountain biker.  She crashed several times and had to walk most of the downhill on the technical sections.  I was wondering if she'd show up on race day.  She didn't.

Overall I had a great race despite some terrible heart rate variability and heart rate numbers the week leading up to the race.  I felt o.k. during that week so I wasn't too worried about it and my numbers on race morning improved a bit though weren't fabulous.  Nonetheless my legs felt strong on the climbs on the bike, I was able to run the whole run course (no walking up the steepy steep bits) and I felt worlds better than I had felt the week before during the pre-ride where I'd had to walk several uphills that I was able to ride during the race.  It's amazing what a week of rest can do.  And it's important not to take hard data too seriously.

All distances and times listed below are per my Garmin.

Swim:  861 yards

There was some kind of mix up with the plugs for the buoys so the race director was unable to inflate them.  To improvise he put the buoys in canoes and had a makeshift course.  It ended up a bit short (was supposed to be 1000 m/12// yards) which was probably fine with just about everybody because the water was a brisk 63 degrees or so.  And swimming at 9000' is challenging.  The swim was 2 laps with a quick exit onto the beach in between laps.  I took the first lap very slowly to avoid getting winded and panicky in the cold water and high elevation.  I got out of the water a bit winded, stopped for a few moments to catch my breath and did the second lap faster and felt fine.  The cold wasn't too bad and mercifully the elevation wasn't bothering me like it has been all summer.

Weather was ominous at the start but it turned into a beautiful, perfect day for racing.

Mountain Bike:  13.92 miles, 1788 ft. elevation gain

The bike went mostly without incident.  The course felt much easier than on the pre-ride.  Fresh legs and knowing what to expect on the course make all the difference.  Such a beautiful course, wildflowers, mountain views, lush green, flowy singletrack.

View from Coyote Tooth Trail (photo taken during pre-ride)

I was faster and stronger on the climbs than during the pre-ride but probably slower on some of  the more sketchy downhills.  I couldn't see any upside to taking risks on them so I went a comfortable pace, happy enough to emerge in one piece.  My goal for the bike was to push the uphills and that part went well.

Unfortunately I don't have any other photos of the course.  I thought about taking my GoPro with me on either the pre-ride or the race but couldn't be bothered in the end.  I'll probably regret that.

Run:  3.98 miles, 499' elevation gain

The run was the first 4 miles of the bike course which included a steep hill after the first mile.  I'd had to walk up in during the pre-ride but I was able to both ride and run it without walking.  Very happy about that.  My goal for the run was to run all the hills.  All of them.  No wimping out and power walking even if it seemed like it would be more efficient to power walk.  I wanted to get over the mental hurdle of feeling like I can't run up the hills when I'm tired at the end of a race.  This gets me every time at Nationals and is my biggest weakness at the moment.  I want to be able to run the hills at Nationals this year, no survival shuffling. 

As it happened I felt good off the bike despite pushing the hills and I had strength enough left in my legs to make it up all the hills.  All of them.  My pace wasn't bad either, much faster than at Mountain Champs but to be fair that was a much longer, harder bike and run.  But still, it felt good to run the whole thing and no shuffling.

I did a little extra credit, took a wrong turn just before the finish line and some spectators finally noticed and set me back on course.  I ended up 3/5 in my age group, very pleased with that.

There are worse finish line views.

View of lake below from the finish line area.  There are worse places to race.

Beautiful scenery, perfect weather, a great day physically on the course - who can ask for anything more?


Swim:   861 yards (per Garmin) 19:30 mins. (2:16/100 yards)

T1:  3:42

Mountain Bike:  13.9 miles, 1788 ft. elevation gain,  1:56:28, 5.79 mph (moving time 1:53:42, stopped to take off fleece top).

T2:  54 secs.

Trail Run:  4.0 miles, 500' elevation gain, 53:36 (13:28 min/mile)

Finish:  3:14:10, 3/5 age group, 13/18 women, 53/65 overall