Friday, December 30, 2016


Nothing like some good running dogwalk OCD to distract you from the horrors of the world.  It feels worse this time around because I know what I'm in for and what to watch for and how many ways it can all go so wrong.

For months I've been ambivalent about dog training, my brain and body focused on Xterra Nat's. and then Worlds and Ruby being such a Good Girl and not needing tons of training or Something To Do.  Now suddenly I find myself entrenched in it, madly reviewing all my videos for all the things.  Why does agility have to have so many things?  And why do so many of those things have to be so big and expensive and they don't fit in my yard?

And the Running Dogwalk.  Such a simple thing and yet so complimacated.  Right now we've had exactly two sessions of running on a piece of astro-turf, so simple.  Two sessions I used a treat gizmo, the other a Lotus Ball.  Silvia's method uses a thrown toy but I never liked that idea for Strummer because of terrible worry over torn ACLs in crazy dogs chasing toys and slamming on the brakes and forever trashing knees.  So for most of his training I used a remote control treat dispenser gizmo.  At some points throughout his training I would use thrown toys but at the start it was all about the treat gizmo.  But Silvia advises that you use a thrown toy and one that is still moving when they catch up to it because a stationary toy will encourage pouncing which will encourage leaping.  Ruby is not Strummer and I'm not too worried about her slamming on the brakes but she does have bionic rear knees from knee surgery so I'm keeping a close eye on her with the toys and running and slamming on brakes.

I shot video of all 3 sessions and so far I'm much happier with the treat gizmo.  This is partly because I suck at throwing and the Lotus Ball isn't like a real ball so it stops before she gets to it anyway.  I tried a couple reps of waiting to throw it until she started running but those throws were some of the worst in terms of my aim and I sent her right off the mat.  I've been working on her tunnel skills so hopefully I can set up a tunnel after the mat soon so she has something to drive to before her reward.  But we need some more work before the tunnel is rewarding enough.  For the first time today she went through the tunnel without being cued and she seems to enjoy it so I think we're well on the way.

First Session (3 days ago) (treat gizmo placed too close to the mat so she never got a lot of speed up)

Second Session (yesterday)

Third Session (today)

Perhaps I've been looking at the videos for far too long but it looks to me like she's leaping on the second and third sessions, more so on the third session with the ball and perhaps it's to do with my throwing and timing.  In most reps. the ball is stationary by the time she gets to it.  It seems impossible that such a little dog built as she is could be leaping.  Will have to take another look at the Silvia Running Contact DVD.  Or maybe I'm overthinking all of this.  You think?

I've also been working on the tunnel and running through the channel weaves to the treat gizmo.  She's happily running through the channel now as long as she's facing the entry straight on.  As soon as I try to angle her entry she goes straight for the treat gizmo and ignores the weave poles.  Going to try some 2x2 training for entries or at least to teach her to look for the poles.  Wish my weave poles opened wider than a foot but oh well.

Still working on Cik/Cap and jump training.  She's finally offering to jump and mostly has decent control of her rear/doesn't swing too wide.  Well maybe on a rep or two but mostly she's pretty good.  Time to move onto the next step.

Ruby Jumps

Haven't done anything about the teeter yet.  I'm borrowing a teeter training video by Jen Pinder from my agility club library, should get it next week.  In the meantime I've been shaping Ruby to walk along a plank, play on it, 2 on 2 off, etc. so she's comfortable on a plank in general.  She seems fine with it so far.  I had a handmade wobble board for Lola but turned it into a table and now I doubt it'll wobble due to the table edges.  Guess I could make another one but I'm feeling lazy and I never felt like it helped Lola all that much in terms of the teeter.  We'll see what the video suggests.

I've got Ruby entered in a seminar in February.  One is Contact Foundations and I'm sure she'll be fine for that but the other sounds like there will be sequences even though it's a Foundations class so we'll see how that goes.  We can always sit out the stuff that's over her head and at least I'll have some ideas of stuff to work on in the future.  But sheesh, nothing like the pressure of a seminar to get your training butt in gear.  Think I'll even try to get her out to the training field in the next few days to see how she does outside the backyard.  Yep, nothing like silly hobbies to distract you from the woes of the world, at least for a few moments.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Happy 16th Birthday to Lola

Happy Birthday to my bestest girl.

I picked up a salmon cake at PC's when I got Ruby's booties.  Lo shared a bit of cake with Ruby but she gobbled it down too quickly to get a photo.  Haven't been working very hard on 'stay'.

Mentally she's still pretty feisty.  Physically she's struggling, especially the last 2 days with the snow and bitter cold.  Hopefully she'll do better today with the warm-up, supposed to go up to the mid-40's today and sunny.  She has periods of anxiety as well, especially at dusk, that old dog sundowners thing.  Like all of you with old dogs we wonder daily about what's the best thing for her but for now she lives to have birthday cake and we do the best we can for her and live in hope that she'll make the decision for herself about when she's ready to go.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Ruby's New Shoes and Cik Cap Training

It's that time of year, snow plus single digits equals sore dog feet.  Obviously Ruby doesn't fit in the big dogs' hand me downs so I had to take her shoe shopping.  It's been about 10 years or so since I bought dog booties and while Ruff Wear still exists they no longer make the booties that worked so well for Strummer and Cody.  All the styles I found online had a hard, vibram type sole that I think is a bad idea for dog feet since they can't move and flex their feet normally.  Sort of like minimalist shoes vs big Hoka type mega cushioned/stability shoes for humans.  So I headed over to P.C.'s Pantry, one of Boulder's locally owned high quality dog and cat supply stores.  P.C.'s is great for getting good stuffs for dogs but it can be quite the 'scene' in there with crazy Boulderites and their dogs.  I didn't get there early enough so the place was hopping with crazy dog people and their dogs.  Poor Ruby, she's such a good sport but she did not want to try on shoes and especially did not appreciate the zillions of 'friendly' dogs trying to get in her face while she was getting stupid shoes shoved on her feet.  I did my best to shield her and give her space and I did end up clocking a 7 month old Bernese Mountain Dog in his thick skull with my my elbow to keep him away.  Actually I lifted my elbow to keep him from charging at her and he ran into me and he smacked his thick skull into my elbow.  The owner mumbled an apology and moved on.  The nice ladies behind the counter gave Ruby plenty of snugs and delicious doggie cookies from the bakery while we waited to be rung up so it wasn't a total horror show experience for her.  Pretty sure I came out of the place with a few new grey hairs though.

We've tested her new booties twice so far, once was a dry run on a short old dog walk on a cold morning with no snow and only the front booties on.  Then we went out yesterday in the 6" of new snow and 11 degrees cold with all booties on.  She was not happy about any of it but I needed to get some poop out of her since she seemed unwilling to go in the backyard and I figured if I took her for a short walk she'd oblige.

The booties?  A brand called Ultra Paws and so far they get the thumbs up.  We were only out for about 10-15 minutes and only 1 block was in the deep snow, everywhere else was plowed so I don't have a lot of experience with them.  But they stayed on and kept the snow out for a short, utilitarian type walk.  Actually it was more of a run because Ruby was so cold and she pulled mightily so I ran, clomping behind her in my big old school Sorels.  Funny, I bought my Sorels in the 90's at a heavy clearance discount from the army navy store in Boulder when they were falling out of fashion and now they're all the rage again and cost 3x what I paid.

Rockin' it Old School

Ruby's New Shoes

They have a unique feature that I've never seen in dog boots and it's 2 pieces of foam at the top.  The foam serves the dual purpose of keeping the booties on and keeping the snow out as you can see from the photos.  This design also allows the top part of the bootie to be split so that you don't have to force the paw into the bootie through a lot of material so they're much easier to get on and off than other booties I've had.  I particularly dislike booties with elastic cuffs at the top even though the cuff helps keep the snow out because they're so hard to get on.

Ruby's feet were dry though this design does hold the snow/iceball next to her leg.  Her feet were cold to the touch but not as cold as other days when I've had her out with no booties in milder weather.

As long as I'm yammering on about dog shoes I'll also give a shout out to Pawz rubber booties.  I've been using these for Lola because she has that old dog neurological disease where she flips her feet over and can't feel them to flip them back.  Her feet were getting cut and bloody and dirty on walks as she'd scuff her feet against the pavement.  For a few months I wrapped her feet in vet wrap but this got spendy and was a pain to do each time we went out.  Also it didn't always work and often the tape would come off.  These booties work great and would also be great for those days when the ground is covered with salt and de-icer.  Not sure if they would keep paws warm enough on bitter cold days but for basic protection they're pretty handy and easy to get on and off.  They're also pretty durable for disposable booties, Lola's still on her first pair and we've been using them twice a day for about a month now.

On a completely unrelated note I was inspired to shoot some video yesterday of Ruby's Cik Cap training.  For those unfamiliar with Silvia Trkman's techniques, cik means a tight wrap around the jump to the left, cap means a tight wrap to the right.  I've been practicing both shaping and luring this with Ruby around a small cone (we started off luring because this was a rehab exercise for her and no way she was going to offer the behavior and I needed her to do it right away).  This is her first session with my brand new fancy pants jump wing.

I'm pleased with her enthusiasm and the fact that she never stalled out and sat down.  But my reward placement is crappy.  It was hard to maneuver around that big jump wing.  Something to work on.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Ruby Random Bits

Finally caught up with posts about travel.  No more trips planned, happy to be done with travel.  Plenty to keep me busy right here.

Started back up with Miss Ruby's training.  No video yet, I've been too lazy to set up the camera.  For weave training I've got my channel weaves set up with the remote controlled treat gizmo at one end and me with a bag of treats and clicker on the other end.  I had to put a plank up next to the poles at first to stop her running out of the channel.  Unfortunately I can only get my poles about 1' apart so the channel is very narrow to start.  I was following Silvia Trkman's method which has you use all 12 poles right from the start so it was a long narrow channel for such a wee dog and she seemed very confused.  So at first I stood in the channel with her just a few poles from the treat gizmo and quickly moved back.  After a few days she seemed to get the hang of it so I moved the plank then a day or two later started introducing angled entries.  And she immediately started running outside the channel again.  Back to straight entries and last session she stopped running through the channel altogether.  I'd restrain her, say 'go' and release her and she'd just stand there.  I think my next move will be to go to 6 poles, that big long channel seems a challenge for her.  Think I may try some 2x2 shaping as well using Mary Ellen Barry's method.  I can also pony up the money for channel weaves that go wider apart.  At some point I'll need new weaves anyway because my current ones have the old 21" spacing.  This is o.k. for a little dog just learning but when I get a bigger dog, and at some point I will get another border collie or mix thereof, I'll need 24" spacing.  But for now I'm waiting to see if I can find a used set or a good deal somewhere, no hurry.

For tunnel training I'm using an old nylon chute barrel.  I bought this chute from Clean Run ages ago for Lola and when it came I realized right away it was way too long.  I intended to cut it and have someone sew the ends rather than return it but never got around to it and forgot all about it.  I dug it out of hiding thinking it was my small play tunnel and discovered this monstrosity.

And of course now we don't even have the chute anymore so I cut off the fabric, gave it to a friend who will re-purpose it and now I have a little mini training tunnel perfect for Ruby.

I started out using a Lotus Ball to reward her running through but again she would sometimes run around the tunnel even though it's so short.  And after each rep I'd have to wait for her to run away with the ball, open it up and eat the treats.  So I switched over to the treat gizmo and now after a couple few weeks she's finally running through consistently.

Jump training is also proving challenging.  I'm using Linda Mecklenberg's method and we're still at stage one, just getting her to want to offer to jump.  She'll sometimes run the long way around behind me to try to get the treat or dive her head under the bar.  Not sure if jumping is physically difficult for her or she doesn't understand.  She's still getting the hang of offering behavior though is much better with it than she was at the start of the summer.  Still kind of sticky though.  Shaping has never been a strength for me.  I figure she's a great challenge though, best to work on my rusty skills with Ruby before I get a young dog or puppy.  I think I need to learn more patience.  I get fed up waiting for her to offer behavior so I'll either give up or make things easier or start luring her just so she'll do something.  So progress has been slow.  I've got the jump set at 12", she measures roughly 13 1/2" so she'd jump 12" in all the venues except USDAA where she'd have to jump 14"  Would almost certainly put her in Performance.  If we even compete.

Tight turns around a cone are moving along.  She's finally doing a full circle, still working on getting multiple wraps and sometimes she'll go back to sitting down and offering nothing.  She's enthusiastic about training in general, gets super excited when I gather up the training stuff to head outside and has started offering behavior more often but is still a newbie and learning about learning.

I bought a couple of winged jumps from Clean Run during their Black Friday sale but of course we got about 5-6" of snow last night and it's freezing today so no practice for a while.

It's 10 degrees and you want me to go out?

No thanks.

We did get a run in yesterday before the storm.  No I didn't plan this and yes it was as embarrassing as it looks.

I also took her to Boulder County Fairgrounds to a DOCNA trial over the weekend.  We went both days for a bit, hung out in the bleachers on Saturday and stood ringside on Sunday, saw some of her friends including her Auntie Joy who was happy to see her and get an update.  She did great, such a novel experience for me to have a dog that sits quietly in my lap in the stands and can hang out ringside without losing her mind.  Being on the trial grounds was clearly not an issue for her.  Not sure what she'd do in the ring but we're a LONG way from thinking about that.  For now it's all about the basics and as long as she stays happy and enthusiastic about training we'll keep up with it.  Now to wait for the snow to melt.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Adventures in Trumpland

The morning after the election I woke up bright and early so I could get the dogs out before hitting the road for Trumpland, ie rural Colorado.  Because Colorado may be blue now (it was purple when I moved here in 1990) but once you get about an hour or so west of Denver on US285 you start seeing the Trump signs.  And if you unwittingly stop in the mountain town of Bailey because the internets told you there was a coffee shop there and you were expecting a breve latte at said 'coffee shop' you'll be sorely disappointed.  In fact if you even try asking for a latte they'll look at you like you just pulled down your pants and took a big dump in the middle of the grubby cafe.  And you get to wait 25 minutes for a simple cheese, egg, potato breakfast burrito while an old guy with a long grey beard and a limp is positively giddy about the election.  'His first 100 days in office he's going to get rid of Obamacare and lower taxes and fix the economy'.  And if you're me you don't know if you should burst out laughing or crying.  Because you're not sure how a racist, misogynistic, ignorant, bellowing orangutan stuffing the White House full of white supremacists and Goldman Sachs vampires is going to be good for anybody except racist misogynist billionaires  but you're already hoping no bodily fluids end up in your breakfast burrito because of the snooty coffee request so I kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, I was on my way to Cortez/Mancos/Dolores to meet a realtor and look at houses mostly because Jonny and I had had our eyes on this little ranch that came on the market, went under contract, came back on the market, went back under contract and we made a deal that if it came back on the market a third time it was fate and we had to go see it. And it came back on the market so off I went.  On my lonesome because we still have Lola and she still can't travel.  So I packed up the GoPro and camera and braved the 7 hour journey to Trumpland.  Because for the last 6 of the 7 hours I didn't see a single Hilary sign.  Though to be fair I didn't see asstons of Trump signs either but they were the only signs I saw.  At one point I saw a small Hillary sticker on a lamp post in Mancos and I though maybe there was a glimmer of hope but it turned out it actually said, 'Jail Hillary'.  Not that I'm a Hillary fan but I'm for sure a not-racist, misogynist, fascist bellowing sex offender orangutan fan.  Between a rock and an impossible to even contemplate place.

But that area, it's so beautiful.  I left super early Wednesday morning so I could get to Phil's World in time to meet a friend who'd just closed on a place in Cortez right before we met.  We only had time for a 1 1/4 hour ride before dusk but it was magic.

Then I went to see his new house and then went for Indian food and by the time I'd driven back to the motel in Mancos and talked to Jonny I was too tired for anything else so I missed all the Not Fun Election stuff on Facebook and everywhere else for that matter.  The next two days were solidly full of looking at houses and hiking and more biking and then another full day of driving to get home and I know you're probably thinking how can I enjoy myself during all the horrorshow  of End of Days and all and you're sort of right.  Except here's the thing.  We can't go around in a state of fear with the expectation that the sky is falling because then that's exactly what will happen.  The fear puts us in a sort of hypnosis and all the bad suggestions of the internets panic of End of Days get in and we accept that racism, fascism, bigotry, sexism, white supremacists in the White House is now the new normal.  And we can't let that happen.  We have to be strong and adopt the attitude that No This Bullshit Will Not Stand.  There have already been post-election racist and anti-LGBT attacks in Denver and we can't let this happen, we can't let this become the new normal, we can't accept that this is normal.  We have to have each others' backs.  Zero tolerance of this bullshit.  Or next thing we know Trump is firing up the ovens and I don't really care how alarmist that sounds because we should be alarmed.  But not wallowing in fear and sadness alarmed.  Strong and thinking What Are We Gonna Do Now alarmed.  And heck yeah I'm gonna ride my bike in the woods because that's when I do my best thinking.  And if it comes to it and the world is going down in flames, well, I may as well enjoy what's left of it.

Phew.  So the ranch we had our eye on was not as perfect in person which happens more often than not in real estate.  The land was too sloping and the house was smaller than advertised and not laid out all that great.  Plus a west facing exposure meant no morning sun when you want it and hot blasting afternoon sun when you don't.  I saw a bunch more houses, maybe a dozen or so in all, and only 2 were reasonable possibilities and only one of those was practical.  The other was a super nice house but 5 minutes on a hilly dirt road to get down to the main road which doesn't sound that bad but was a bit more excitement than what we're looking for.  Plus the house was super fancy, way more fancy than we need.  Paying for fancy is not a good value because after a month or two you don't notice the fancy but you do notice the drive down the hilly dirt road, especially in the winter.  The other house was a great location and perfect size house in good condition but not super fancy or expensive.  Land was sloping though and I'd like some flat land for an agility/dog yard.  Wasn't so sloping though that I couldn't maybe pay to have some of it leveled and the house was cheap enough.  But a long driveway and something I hadn't thought about rural living is the cost of maintaining private dirt roads.  I'd done the math on the snow removal but hadn't thought about the expense and hassle of general maintenance.  It's on the 'maybe' list anyway.  We're in no hurry, trying to move several mountain passes away in the winter is not a good plan.  But maybe by spring the right house comes up and Google opens their Boulder office so we sell our house quickly and hopefully the Goldman Sachs vampires haven't totally pillaged what's left of the economy by then.

After looking at houses on Thursday I had some daylight left and the realtor suggested the Chicken Creek Cross Country Ski Area for a hike.  It didn't disappoint.  Though I didn't have a trail map and there were so many trails branching off of trails that I got a bit turned around but I found my way out before dark.

On Friday the realtor couldn't meet until the afternoon so I took advantage of the time to myself and rode Bean Canyon up in the Boggy Draw trail system outside of Dolores.  I was out there 2 1/2 hours or so and saw 2 women riding with a dog.  That was it.  When I got back to the parking lot there were a couple of guys unloading their bikes but they were going on a different trail.  They'd come all the way down from Telluride to ride at Boggy Draw, maybe 1 1/2 hour drive or so.  It was beautiful, even in shoulder season.

On the way home I stopped at a friend's place outside of Durango.  She had come down with me on my trip last Jan. and when she and her husband went back a couple months later they bought a house.  It was a fixer upper and they were still in the throes of fixing it up.  They'd had to re-do the septic too and had drainage issues with the land sloping towards the house.  It all looked a bit overwhelming.  I'm hoping we don't end up with those types of issues but who knows.  It'll be an adventure anyway.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Maui - Post Xterra Worlds

I had 3 full days to enjoy Maui after Worlds while simultaneously recovering.  Since I don't travel much and very rarely encounter an ocean I decided to do mostly ocean stuff and that meant snorkeling.

The first day post race I went to Olowalu beach because it was recommended by the dive shop that I rented the snorkel gear from.  There wasn't much beach between the highway and the ocean, kind of weird pulling the car up, crossing a bit of sand and just getting right in to the ocean.  Nonetheless there were people sunning themselves on the beach right next to the highway with the traffic blaring by.

The water was a bit cloudy close to shore, I had to swim out a ways to get to clear-ish water and the coral reefs where the fish hang out.  So very cool, my first experience with snorkeling.  The fish, the coral, so so cool.  It felt like I was only out there 30-40 minutes or so and my GoPro footage backed this up but when I looked at my watch it said I'd been out there an hour and a half.  All I can think is that something went screwy somewhere with my watch.

The water was wavy, not as bad as on race day but not calm either.  I was getting blown about a bit by the current and the water wasn't super warm so I had to keep moving or I'd get cold.  All of this added up to a bad case of motion sickness after I got out and got back to the condo.  I was fine while I was in the water but once I'd been out a bit my world started spinning.  Pretty sure I spent the rest of the day crashed out in the condo where the sound of the ocean probably didn't help matters.

By morning I was better and my roomie wanted to go swimming.  She had sprained her ankle during the race and wasn't able to snorkel so we met up with our coach and went for a short swim.  Then I was off for more snorkeling, this time to Black Rock Beach, also recommended by the dive shop.  I had to park at a different beach (Kahekili Beach State Park) about a mile or so away and walk across that beach to get to Black Rock.  The area had 2 snorkeling areas but the guide book had advised against trying to swim from one to another due to strong currents off the point that separated them.  Supposedly it was possible to get swept out to sea.  Or something.  At first I thought this was a warning for tourists who might not have swimming skills but the current was strong again and as I got to the point I wondered if it was worth tempting fate.  I have a strong respect for the ocean and I had no idea what the conditions really were so I decided not to risk it.  So I stayed on my side of the point and toodled around for about 20-30 minutes until I got cold and weary of being blown about by the current.  There were more fish and the water was clearer closer to shore than at Olowalu.  When I got out a guy asked me if I'd seen anything good.  He told me there were turtles and rays.  I'd seen loads of colorful fish but no turtles or rays.  I asked him if he was going to swim around the point to the other snorkel area and he said yes but he had proper scuba equipment and looked and sounded experienced.

I was so wanting to see the big sea turtles so I decided to get out and walk around to the other side of the point which was another 10 minutes or so.  This part of the beach was right next to the Sheraton hotel and filled with people.  Too Many People.  But it was way calmer and I'd walked all that way and there was the chance of turtles so I decided I had to give it a go.

And right off the bat, big sea turtles!  So so cool!  Of course I didn't have my GoPro.  The only problem was that as soon as there was a turtle, zillions of people would swim over to see it.  I got fed up with the crowds pretty quickly and swam further out to escape them.  Lots of fish and pretty coral but no turtles.  For some reason they were all hanging out close to shore with the people.  I swam back to shore and discovered a couple few that only one other person noticed so I did eventually get to enjoy them without the hordes.  Another 20-30 minutes and I was done.

And super sea sick again when I got back to the condo.  Earlier that morning I had signed up for a 7 hour boat trip that including a couple of stops for snorkeling the following day and I was wondering how I was going to pull that off.  When I returned my snorkel equipment the guy in the dive shop recommended some stuff that supposedly didn't make you drowsy like dramamine.  I was skeptical but figured it was worth a try.  I took a pill that night and did feel a bit better.  Maybe there was hope for the morning.

I woke up feeling much better and made my way to Lahaina Harbor for my boat ride/snorkel trip to Lanai, a neighboring island that I'd been looking at each day from my condo.  My flight home left at 10:00 that night so I had to leave my bike and all my luggage in the van unattended for 7 1/2 hours in a tourist town where car break-ins occur.  All I could do was hope for the best.

The boat was smaller than I'd hoped, not good for not being sea sick.  My coach's husband told me to keep my eye on the horizon and that would help.  I spent a lot of the trip staring at the horizon.  The trip included a stop in a bay off the coast of Lanai to snorkel and I was hoping to see some more sea turtles with less people this time.  The bay had other tour groups but it wasn't as bad as Black Rock.  The guides claimed there were turtles but when I swam over to where they supposedly were, I never saw them.  Oh well.  Still lots of cool fish and clearer water than off Maui.

Lanai from the boat. 

Coast of Lanai with Maui in the background.

And of course the Spinner Dolphins.  SO cool!  Probably the highlight of my trip to Maui.

That video footage took forever to put together and edit and it's a large reason why I'm so far behind in blog posts.  I don't know how people in film editing do it, so tedious.

The boat trip dropped us on Lanai for a couple of hours so at least I wasn't at sea for the full 7 hours.  Lanai is a weird place, former Oracle CEO Geek Larry Ellison bought it a few years ago and renovated the Four Seasons there making it supposedly the fanciest of all the Four Seasons anywhere.  Rooms start at $1075.  Here's an interesting article from 2014 about Ellison's takeover of Lanai.  Anyway, they gave us a packed lunch, dropped us off at Manele Bay, a 10-15 minutes walk to Hulopo'e Beach, and told us not to go wandering over to the Four Seasons' pool and fancy patio area.

The beach was nice but again had some surf and shore break.  Nothing like what I had to deal with on race day but enough to get blown around a bit while snorkeling.

Such amazing shades of blue.

I snorkeled for another 20-30 minutes then took a short hike along the point.  The trail didn't go very far, maybe 15 minutes, but there were some nice views along the way.

Picnic area at  Hulopo'e.  Not a bad place for lunch.

I didn't have a car so couldn't go into the town area.  The beach area had a weird feeling to it, beautiful but isolated and populated by tourists, nobody there looked like a local.  And the weird feeling of the super rich hotel and its occupants looming over it.  Plus a super fast internet connection according to a woman who was amazed at being able to send a photo to her daughter from such a remote place.

There was a primitive beach house with a shower and I was happy to be able to wash off the salt water before catching my flight back home.  But that happiness was short lived because the boat ride back to Maui was a bit more terrifying, er, exciting than I was expecting and I ended up drenched with salt water again.  The surf generally picks up in the afternoon and I had started the journey in the front of the boat not realizing that this is the best place to sit if you're looking for an exciting ride.  Thankfully they stopped the boat after a bit and let those of us who were looking a bit pale from all the excitement go to the back of the boat.  We got back to Lahaina and I was feeling like I'd survived some epic ocean crossing and the boat's captain said we were lucky, usually it's a lot worse.

Quick dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Lahaina and I was off to the airport to catch my flight home.  Somehow I put the thought of the seawater soaked into my skin and hair out of mind.  Totally worth it to see those dolphins.  And I slept like a rock on both flights.  I didn't get sea sick on the boat and I was o.k. at the airport but once I got home I was motion sick for 3 days.  Still worth it.

Glad I went to Maui and had the experience of a World Championship but I think it will be a once in a lifetime thing.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Xterra World Championships 2016 - All the Epic

 Quick race stats:

SWIM DISTANCE: 0.93 miles (1500 m) at DT Fleming Beach, West Maui, Hawaii
MOUNTAIN BIKE DISTANCE: 20 miles (32 km), 3575' elevation gain on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains
TRAIL RUN DISTANCE:  6.5 miles (10.5 km), 1226' elevation gain
Epic.  Brutal.  Those are the two most common words I heard fellow competitors use to describe this race after the fact.  Also, 'most difficult conditions ever in the 21 year history of this race'.  Lucky me that this is the year I pick to take this on.
I spent a fitful night before the race listening to the ocean.  Every time I woke up throughout the night it sounded angry.  Mad.  Super angry mad.  I woke up in the morning and figured it was my imagination.  Looked at the waves and thought maybe not.  Made the mistake of checking the weather only to find that there was a High Surf Warning with strong winds and 10'-12' waves, hazardous conditions for swimming.  Well, maybe this would not be accurate.  It was accurate.  Note the screaming in the background.

Posted by Janet Soule on Sunday, October 23, 2016

But let's not get ahead of myself. I got to the venue (Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua) nice and early, 6:40 a.m. or so.  Transition didn't officially open until 7:00 but it was open by the time I got there at 6:45.  Got a primo parking place in transition.  And plenty of time to find someone to take my photo.  Because if you go to all the bother of going to World Championships you should get a 'before' photo.  At first I posed very boringly standing next to my bike but the woman taking my picture insisted I flex some muscles.

Worlds has some interesting things like tatoos for your race number on your arm and your hand instead of regular body marking with markers/ink.

Also you get a number plate and bib number with your name and country on it.  Fancy Shmancy.  This was kind of cool because during the race you could see where your fellow competitors were from.  Especially if you end up slogging through the mud pushing your bike side by side for hours and have plenty of time to commiserate, er, chat.  But I'm getting ahead of myself again.

Transition ended up being busy busy.  Funny to see the Chicago flag on someone's race jersey.  The skinheads in Chicago would put those on their leather jackets back in the 80's.

Intermittent rain showers and downpours had soaked the bike course from Thursday thru Saturday making it unrideable during that time.  They closed it  to pre-riding at some point, can't remember when.  We even got chased inside by a downpour during the swim clinic Friday morning before we got to the swimming part.  It didn't rain for long, these showers were short lived but there were enough of them each day and enough volume of rain to keep the bike course a slimy mud pit.  And the road was wet when I drove to the venue on race morning so it had rained overnight.  My coach's husband used to race cyclocross which can be a very muddy event and he told me to put chain lube on all of my bike's moving parts and grease in my pedals which I'd switched over to clipless for my last few races so yes I'd had to deal with trying to clip in with muddy cleats and pedals.  He also sprayed my bike and moving parts with silicone spray.  SO thankful for his help with all my challenges with this race.  Not much else I could do.

After getting set up and my bike sprayed I made my way down to the beach and watched the waves.  There is a Hawaiian named Kupuna Clifford Naeole who does race day blessings.  You stand in line and when it's your turn he touches some water in a bowl with a palm leave then touches you with it in various places and says a blessing.  I stood in line and got my blessing.  I figured I could use all the help I could get, spiritual or otherwise.

There's some video of him here on the race highlights as well as video of the challenging surf and bike conditions.  There's also video of one of the challenged athletes that I ended up leap frogging with him throughout the day on the bike.  We saw each other in the airport on the way home and nodded at each other, knowing the hard experience we'd both been through.  I can't even imagine though as hard as my day was how much harder it would have been dealing with all that mud with a prosthetic leg and quite a few challenged athletes finished.  Truly inspirational the amount of effort those athletes put in.

2016 XTERRA World Championship Highlights from XTERRA TV on Vimeo.

Waiting for the race to start I was surprisingly calm.  I practiced getting in and out again a few times with the huge waves and it was for sure more challenging than the previous days but I still felt like a had a handle on it.  It wouldn't be pretty, certainly would be a slow swim but I'd get through it.  Just stay calm, swim within myself, don't go too crazy worrying about Fast.

While waiting for the starting cannon to go off at Nationals someone told me that at Worlds they wait for an opportune time between the wave sets to fire the cannon for each athlete wave (there were 4 waves this year with all the women going last) but they didn't appear to be doing that this year.  The cannon went off like clockwork at the scheduled time for all the waves and the big age group men's wave starting with a huge surf wave.  The women's wave was last and we started 13 minutes after the pros.  Somehow the waters were calm-ish for our start and we got in without any big shore break.  But the waves were there the whole way to the buoy.  I couldn't even see the buoy, I just followed the people and all of a sudden the buoy appeared right there.  I started a bit off center to the right of the buoy because of the direction the current was pushing us and this worked perfectly except for the part about stepping on some coral in the water that I couldn't see at the start.  Coral is sharp and I worried I'd cut my foot but by the time I reached the first buoy I'd completely forgotten about it.  It was crazy out there, I'd feel a big wave coming and dive down, I'd fight against the current, try not to get blown into my fellow competitors and hope they didn't get blown into me.

The course is a big 'M', you swim out to a buoy, turn around and swim back to shore, exit the water and run a short distance on the beach then get back in to swim the second lap.

After the first buoy the surf had picked up even more and it was difficult to get out of the water.  It wasn't pretty, I stood up, got pulled back by an incoming wave and sort of washed up on the beach but I didn't get slammed into the sand and I was o.k.  Getting back in was also a challenge and I had to use my diving into the wave skills.  The waves were even worse for this lap, it was almost comical the way we were all getting tossed around.  Somehow I found the buoy, it magically appeared again just as I came up to it and then the current brought me back in though it hardly felt easy.  Hardest swim I've ever done.  Clicked my watch off when I got out of the water at 39:42.  I swam 1883 yards for a pace of 2:06/100 yards.  Slow for me but I was happy enough to survive that ordeal without a single moment of fear or panic  I was intentionally holding back on pace and keeping well within myself since it was going to be a long day.  The race was supposed to be 1500 meters or 1640 yards but when I compared my yardage on Strava to others who had done the race my yardage wasn't so bad, pretty close to or less than what many others had swum.  I was pleased with my swim and glad to have survived.

There's a bit of a run from the beach up to transition and I didn't run very fast, even walked a bit to get my balance back and recover.

I thought T1 went quickly and smoothly but my time was 5:40 which seems very slow especially since I didn't have to take off a wetsuit.  I did have a swim skin but this came off way more quickly than a wetsuit.  I'm guessing it includes some of my run time up from the beach and also the transition area was huge.  I did take a bit of time to grab some ice packs from my little mini soft sided cooler but it didn't seem like it took all that much time.  Oh well, a mystery.

On to the bike.  Oh the bike.  So much pushing my bike through the mud.  That Xterra highlights video above shows lots of riding but this was not so for most of the age groupers.  Apart from the already muddy conditions, it rained again for a short bit during the race, maybe withing the first half hour I was on the bike.  Can't recall exactly when or for how long but while the rain felt good and cooling, it turned the muddy trail even further into soup never mind the nearly 800 riders churning it up.  Not only couldn't you ride in it but many people's bikes got so bogged down with mud that they couldn't even push them.  So many people littering the trail while they scraped mud off their bikes just so that they could be able to push them again.  These two videos are a way more accurate portrayal of the first 9 miles or so of the course for the typical age grouper.

A couple minutes of Heather Horton's video from the steep switchback section of the 2016 XTERRA Maui bike course...
Posted by Carl Horton on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

XTerra World Championship 2016 Bike Course from beth lamie on Vimeo.

I mostly pushed my bike for the first 8-9 miles and this is where a good chunk of the climbs are. Took me somewhere between 2 1/2 - 3 hours to get to the top and to a place where trail conditions were such that I could finally ride for an extended period.  The only good thing I can say about it all is that it seems I'm pretty good at pushing my bike through the mud and perhaps all the silicone helped a lot because my bike didn't seem to be bogging down as much as everyone elses and I passed a lot of people.  People who are normally way way faster than me.  Also this was a place for good mental management.  Lots of people were getting wound up and frustrated over the mud and wasting precious energy and stress.  There also seemed to be some strategy as to where you pushed your bike (I mostly kept the bike to the grassy-ish sides of the trail while I slogged through the mud).  And some strategy as to where and when to try to ride.  Because there were short bits and pieces here and there that you could kind of ride.  But trying to ride in deep mud was a mistake because your extra weight only caused the bike to clog with mud sooner.  Also it seemed like riding through the mud took more energy than walking or running your bike through it.  And there were places were you could sorta kinda run and most people weren't, they were slogging along in a grumpy mood.  In different conditions I would have been way further back in the race riding mostly on my own but for the whole bike I had people to ride with.  Also it was cooler and windier for the first part of the bike than on my pre-ride and this went a long way towards me not getting dizzy and overwhelmed with the heat.  The ice packs helped a LOT.  They made all the difference.

After the last big climb, maybe around mile 9 the trail conditions improved, things were starting to dry out and the course went down hill for a while.  I was careful with my speed because you never knew when you were going to hit a muddy patch but apparently I was  pushing things more than on the pre-ride because according to Strava I had many faster times on the downhill portions, especially the first long downhill portion.  I was 22:30 mins. during the race compared to 29:54 on the pre-ride.  I guess the confidence of having my own bike, not being loopy with the heat and having other competitors to race made all the difference.  Also having knowledge of the course makes a big difference on the downhills.

Most of the rest of the course was rideable.  There were a few muddy patches and places that were super steep that I had to get off for but mostly I could ride and this put me in a good mood.  I saw some rodent type critter start to scamper out of the pineapple fields but when he saw me he quickly ran back in.  It was kind of big whatever it was so I'm glad it took to the hills and left me alone.  I heard all kinds of noises in the forest but never saw anything.  There were still many little steep punchy climbs here and there but only a few longer sustained climbs.  Lots of twisty downhill that was kinda fun.  I had a much better time of it than on the pre-ride.

When I finished the upper loop and passed the check-point from the pre-ride they told me I was 5 1/2 miles from transition and that I had an hour.  Both I and another guy misunderstood and yelled back, 'An hour???!!!'  thinking he meant it would take an hour.  But what he meant was we had an hour until the bike cut-off.  The day before I was worried about that cut-off.  At the pre-race meeting they said they'd extend it from 2:00 to 2:30 and maybe even longer on race day depending on conditions and how people were handling them.  The women started 13 minutes after the official start of the race so I felt a bit cheated and that maybe I'd have difficulty making it if I became overwhelmed with the heat and had to walk.  But on race day I wasn't worried because so many people were bogged down with the mud I figured I would be o.k.  And an hour was plenty of time.  I think this meant they extended the deadline until 3:00 or so (race started at 9:00).  In any case I was thrilled when I realized what the guy was saying as I knew I'd easily make the cut-off.  There were maybe 9 people or so who didn't make the cut-off out of 740 so I'd say Xterra was pretty generous.

My time for T2 was 2:48 and this also included time to grab more ice bags.  Miraculously they had stayed frozen in the Maui heat.  As I was stuffing one down my bra I looked up to see the t.v. camera right there filming and the camera guy laughing.  It'll be just my luck that that makes the cut and I'll be on national t.v. at World Champs stuffing ice bags down my bra.  But I just laughed and gave him the thumbs up because sheesh what a day.

The run went o.k. considering.  I walked some uphill bits to prevent myself from overheating because by now the sun was out.  But the trade winds were blowing and they'd hit my ice packs and it was kind of like my own little swamp cooler.  They lasted almost until the end of the run.

The only issue I had was with my orthotics.  Not only were my feet soaking wet but there was water sloshing in my shoes and my orthotics are old and worn out so they were slipping and bunching up in the front and the hard arch was moving under the upper part of my foot on the downhills.  So I had to stop after all the steep downhills to re-position them.  Luckily I could do it without taking my shoes off but I did have to stop many times and it cost me some time.  But at that point all I wanted to do was finish, my time and placement were irrelevant.

I was able to run, not super fast but it was running and I never got dizzy or nauseous or overcome with the heat!  I was so excited about that.  The run was kind of fun too, up and down and twisting through the woods.  Some technical places of vaulting over downed trees (thank you parkour class) and ducking under low tree limbs.  Fun!  There were some trippy bits to watch for, little stumpy things sticking up into the trail that I didn't notice until I started stumbling over them.  There's a big steep unpleasant climb on asphalt in the last mile or so and then you head down to the beach where you run the length of the beach in the sand to the finish line.  It was funny running along the beach and the tourists doing their thing stopping to cheer me on.  The 6 1/2 miles took 1:43 but somehow it never seemed as long as that.  And felt so much better since I was able to run, albeit slowly, without the terrible dizziness and nausea that have plagued me in those previous races.

And then the Finish Line!  So so excited to see that and finish the race.

Photo Credit:  Steve Schwarz

The guy doing the live stream pulled me aside and did a little interview with me.  Jonny got a video of it.

Not the most coherent I've ever been in my life, but heartfelt.

Xterra World Champs 2016 Survivor

I wasn't as muddy as some folks, I never fell, but still, poor bike.  After the race I waited in line at the bike wash for about an hour so I could clean my bike.  I spent a long time on it but it was getting dark and I was getting cold to the point of shivering so I forgot to do a wheel and came home with some Maui mud.

Based on my finish time at Nationals and looking at other folks times who had done Worlds and Nat's. I figured my finish time would be around 5:30-5:40, maybe 5:20 if it wasn't too hot and I had a great race.  My time ended up being 6:54:36 (hours/mins/secs).  Most age groupers were 1 - 1 1/2 hours longer than their finishes in typical years.  The pros were maybe only 15 minutes slower though to be fair their trail conditions were probably not as chewed up as ours.  Xterra's press release says more than 800 athletes from 46 countries participated.  The official results show 740 people and 26 DNF's (did not finish).  Probably 9 of those were folks who didn't make the bike cut-off.  There were only 3 major injuries which is way down from previous years most likely because the mud prevented folks from building up any major speed.  Fewer people require IV bags because conditions were cooler and walking huge parts of the bike course meant folks weren't building up as much body heat and getting overheated.

I was so tired I almost didn't go back to the Ritz for the awards ceremony but my coach and her husband offered to drive me and I was too tired to try to make my own food so I went.  Thankful that I did go, the food was good and they even played the Ramones during the awards.  Plenty of speeches about the history making conditions from the organizers, the pros, even the man who did the morning blessings.  They started the age groups awards with the oldest age groups which was nice because they had all the 70-79 finishers up on stage at the same time and that was truly inspirational.  There were 2 men in 70-74 and one in 75-79 and one woman in 70-74 that finished.  The oldest woman was 71 and the oldest man was 79.  There was another 79 year old man competing and he finished the bike but did not make the time cut-off.  I spoke to him in the parking lot a couple days before the race and he said he'd competed and finished many years (can't remember how many but it was a lot).

They also took some time on stage to acknowledge my coach who turned 65 this year and won her age group for the 7th time.  She's retiring from Worlds this year though will probably still compete at other races.  She's on to other exciting adventures in her life.  She won her age group this year by just a minute against a competitor she wasn't familiar with so it was a nail biter for her up until the finish.  Glad for her that she was able to finish out her Worlds career with a hard won win in such challenging conditions.

They give you a nice finsher's medal which I wasn't expecting in addition to the colorful lei of real flowers.  I bought a few bits and bobs but didn't go too crazy with the souvenirs.

I enough real life memories from that experience to last a lifetime

Pre - Xterra Worlds

I'll write up a race report but it's so rare that I make a trip like this anymore that I thought I'd write a bit about the build-up to the race.  Also to remind myself in case I ever get a crazy notion that I want to do this again and to give others an idea of what's involved in case they're on the fence.

I don't travel much anymore outside of Colorado and the states surrounding it, lost my wanderlust years ago.  Plus I love it so much here, why go through the hassle when everything I want is no more than a day's drive?  Hot humid tropical places don't appeal to me to visit let alone race in.  And I've been struggling with heat regulation this race season even in the dry cool mountains.  But I qualified for Xterra Worlds again this year and I had a notion that I should give it a go, have the experience of a World Championship.  I knew it would be a hard race, my coach warned me of that but I was feeling like I wanted a challenge and this race would be a challenge in so many ways.  Plus the losing of Strummer so suddenly and unexpectedly, I'm feeling a sense of urgency about things I might want to do in the future.  No more waiting for stuff, the time is now.  Though I have to admit that this is a helluva way to have a mid-life crisis.

Travel is extremely irritating for me, especially on planes.  I knew adding the hassle of traveling with my bike would only make it worse and I was right.  As I wrote in my previous post I arrived in Maui and my bike did not.  Plus the Maui airport is one of the dirtiest, grimiest most unpleasant public places I've ever been.  Mold everywhere on the walls and ceilings, the floor seemed sticky with who knows what.  No air conditioning which is probably why everything was so moldy and sticky.  Not a great place to wait and wait and wait for your bike that never comes.  There was another guy on my flight with the same issue, a guy who'd come with his family and his teenage son was racing.  Like me he'd come on the Tuesday so that his son could pre-ride the challenging 20 mile course on Wednesday in enough time to recover for Sunday's race.  Thanks no thanks to Hawaiian Airlines.  And they weren't the least apologetic about it nor would they deliver the bikes the hour drive to West Maui where we were staying.

But as I wrote below I had a beautiful view from my condo and my coach helped me scramble to arrange a reasonable rental so at least I could experience the course.

I woke up to spectacular rainbows from my balcony almost every morning.

As well as spectacular sunsets as shown in the post below.

But I couldn't spend too much time on rainbows and unicorns because I had a race to prepare for.  Had to get to the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua first thing in the morning to get my race packet and number because you had to have your race number to access the big upper loop of the bike course.  Not only that but you had to check in at a checkpoint before 2:00 at the latest and check out again by 3:00.  Because I had to deal with renting a bike I didn't get on the course until 10:30 (11:30 at the checkpoint).  I stopped at the checkpoint, about 3 1/2 miles into the 20 mile course, to adjust the bike seat because I felt like I was starting to get a saddle sore and the saddle creaked and squeaked for the entire rest of the ride.  I stopped numerous times to try to fix it to no avail.  I did my best to avoid letting it annoy me.

Part of the reason I was so hell bent on riding the course ahead of time was so that I could experience it and enjoy it at my leisure.  Stop and take some pictures.  Make friends with the natives.

On one of the numerous times that I stopped to futz with the saddle, a guy with long purple and grey hair and a parrot on his shoulder stopped to help me.  He concluded that I needed some grease which neither of us had but I figured all was not lost if he'd let me take a picture of his parrot.  He responded to my request by insisting I give the parrot a ride and he'd take some photos.  He was a very nice, sociable parrot and happy enough to hop on my shoulder and hang on by gripping my helmet with his beak.

There had been some showers over the bike course for the past couple few days, I'm not sure exactly how many days or how much rain and you can see that the trail looks a bit muddy.  This was a particularly wet area right after a big mud/water bog.  But for the most part the trail was dry and ride-able.

I stopped many times along the way to soak up the sights, sounds and smells.  I kept thinking I smelled cocoa powder, especially when I saw these flowery bushes (trees?).

Strangely enough I saw what appeared to pods of cocoa beans, or what I imagine them to look like, and I stopped to smell them.  Sure enough they smelled like cocoa but were on different trees than these flowering shrubs.  So I dunno.  Probably should have done my homework a little better regarding the flora on West Maui.

Everything so green and rich and lush.  This is in stark contrast to the dry, brown, drought conditions we're having in Colorado right now.

For the first 8 miles or so there was a lot of riding through the woods without any views of anything.  And climbing.  Lots of climbing.

But finally you come out on Razor Ridge and you have a nice view of the hills and the ocean.  Pretty sure this is the view from Razor Ridge anyway.  It's easy to see it from the helicopter views of the race, in fact it looks like a scary knife edge situation with lots of exposure but I never noticed anything like that while I was riding.  There's still another steep climb before the big descent where you get lots of views of the ocean.

Finally the nice views on the way down after all the steep climbing.  There's a nice descent so that you can recover and then you meander through the pineapple fields for a bit before more climbing.

And this was when I started feeling the heat of the day.  It's around 8-9 miles to the top of the big climb and by the final climb I was so hot and sweating.  I drank plenty of water, even took some electrolytes and food but by mile 16 I was ready to be done.  And there's still plenty of climbing left in those last 4 miles.  The miles seemed interminable and I spent them getting more and more dizzy and nauseous, similar to the way I felt in the last miles of Xterra Nationals, Mountain Champs and Buff Creek.  By around Mile 18-19 I turned a corner to see yet another steep punchy climb and I pulled off the trail to let my core temp. go down a bit and the dizziness subside and my stomach settle and I was close to tears.  This did not bode well for race day.

Fortunately this was the last steep climb.  Unfortunately with about 5-6 minutes of downhill trail left the skies opened up with a sudden downpour.  Someone else on the course warned me to be careful but there's only so much you can do when the trail turns slick and greasy.  It was like nothing I've ever ridden on and I took a few minor slips on some switchbacks even with being very careful.  It was like driving on black ice in winter, nothing you can do to gain traction.  Thankfully I was quickly out of the woods and on to the last paved part of the course but yikes, what if it's like this on race day?

That was one of the more humbling pre-rides I've ever done and for the first time in forever I doubted whether I would finish a race or not.  At the  Race Expo they were selling nice bike jerseys that said 'Xterra Worlds' on them and I wanted to buy one but they were spendy and I figured it would only be salt in the wound if I didn't finish.

But I realized a few things about the ride.  First of all, I'd forgotten my ice cube packs.  I would have those for sure on race day provided they stayed frozen in the little soft sided cooler I had.  Also I was out on the course in the heat for much longer than I would be on race day.  In the end I was out there 5 1/2 hours with only 3 1/2 hours of it being riding time.  I'd lost a lot of time with stopping to fix the seat post and to take photos and to cool off.  And of course parrot photo ops.  In fact I was a bit worried about making the 3:00 cut off for being off the big loop.  Wasn't sure what they did if you didn't make it.  There were dire warnings about being arrested and disqualified from the race if you strayed from the official course on that big loop.  But I made it through the checkpoint with about 15 minutes to spare, phew.  Still, it had added some pressure and stress to those last few miles.  I figured I'd probably only be out on the bike 3 1/2 hours or less on race day depending on the heat.  Also I was hopeful that I'd be better acclimated to the heat and humidity with 3 more days in Maui.  Plus the jet lag, lack of sleep, travel fatigue, etc.  I had many reasons to be a bit more hopeful about race day.  But I realized I'd have to pace myself well for the swim and bike in order to be able to make it through the run.  And there was a cut-off for the bike.  When I signed up for the race the cut-off seemed super generous but after riding that course I worried more about it, especially if I had another bout of dizziness in the heat.

The one other big advantage I would have on race day was my bike.  The rental was a nice light weight hard tail which means it has front suspension but not rear suspension.  My bike is a bit heavier but has full suspension and is much more comfortable.  I didn't feel great on the descents on the rental but reasoned that I could make up some time with more confident (ie speedier) descents on my own bike.  Which did eventually arrive but thanks to TSA who had let all the air out of one tire allowing the Stans to leak everywhere I had to make another trip to the Expo to have the bike shop fill the tube with Stan's (sealant for tubeless tires) and use the air compressor to re-inflate it (it would not re-inflate with a regular stand pump).  $29 for just a few minutes of work and a splurt of Stan's but I was grateful I was able to have it done.

I spent the next 2 days practicing swimming in the ocean.  There was some big surf the first day and even bigger surf the second but both days paled to actual race day (more about that in the race report) so I was very very thankful I'd practiced.  My coach's husband was an avid body surfer and knew how to swim in waves so he gave me some instruction on the first day and the second day Xterra had a clinic with some of the pros.

Some photos from the clinic

This looks super intimidating to someone who has only ever swum in reservoirs.  Mostly nice, calm, smooth as glass with maybe one rough day of almost whitecaps reservoirs.  I forgot all about the sharks and realized I had more imminent things to worry about.  But I practiced both days, getting in, getting out, getting in, getting out, diving into the correct part of the wave, swimming all different directions in the current.  I got some good mouthfuls of water and some inelegant exits onto the beach but no major problems of getting severely tossed or my hip slammed into the sand like a lady I met during the swim.  I felt like I had the hang of how to dive into the wave, at least enough to get me through the race.  Sorta.  Kinda.  I felt o.k. about it.  Little did I know what race day had in store.