Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Snow

It's rare that there's enough snow for snowshoeing on the trail near my house so I took advantage of it last week and got 2 snowehoe run/hikes in.

Poor Strummy, he's not a fan of cold feet so he kept to the packed down part of the trail while I stayed in the deeper stuff.

Can't remember the last time I was snowshoeing, forgot how much fun it can be.  Especially when you don't have to drive to the trail.  I only drove the car 3 out of 7 days last week and even then only a couple miles to get to and from the pool.  My pool gear is so heavy, hard to haul it from the car let alone on a bike or walking never mind the scary distracted texting drivers so I drive the 5 minutes to the pool.  Plus a big giant hill on the way.  Stupid, wasteful I know but I've yet to find a solution.

I'm thinking of trying some mountain bike races this spring but one of them is the same weekend as USDAA Regionals.  Coincidentally they're about 5 minutes apart and I can sign up for the bike race close to the start time so I've got a sorta crazy idea about seeing if I can sneak over there for the race in the middle of the day if the schedule works out right.  I know, sounds like a not very great idea but we'll see.  Regionals will take priority, the bike course/trails aren't super interesting and this could well be Strum's last trial unless there are some UKI trials this summer that fit in my triathlon schedule.  Strum turns 11 this month and I'm not a super big fan of double digit dogs doing agility but he seems fine so we'll keep going for the next couple few months.  Hate to take it away from him, he truly loves it.  But don't want him to spend his old age injured.

We needed the moisture and I'm glad for it but ready for spring and itching to hit the trails.  It's melting quickly with the warm temps. but this only means mud season is upon us.  Ah well, it's better than drought.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Springtime in the Rockies

Bike ride in shorts and t-shirt in the mountains yesterday.

View from Poorman Road

And today?

The forecast started out at less than an inch yesterday then went up to 1-3" last night, this a.m. it was 3-5" and at around 11:15 a.m. I measured a foot.  And it's still coming down fast and furious.  Jonny left work just before 11:00 and said there were cars stranded all over the road, in ditches, crazy out there.  Glad I didn't try to go to the pool today.  Looks like a day for Scooby Doo slippers, a cup of cocoa and a good book.  And my weight workout later. 

I was finally feeling mostly recovered from my neck and knee injuries brought on 5-6 weeks ago from too much snow shoveling and skiing.  I'm not even going to try to shovel.  The snow is that heavy, wet back breaking midwestern type snow and it's supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny tomorrow so hopefully enough will melt that I can get out of the driveway.  I may try for some skiing at North Boulder Park if I can get out of the driveway tomorrow but I suspect it'll be too wet and heavy and they might not even groom it.  If so I'll shoot for 45 minutes at the most.  Just yesterday I was telling myself I was done with skiing, it's not worth the injuries and my knee was still a little sore from it on my bike ride.

Was hoping to sign up for a couple of mountain bike races in April and May but I guess we'll see how the weather goes.  Was feeling fit and feisty on the bike yesterday but the trails maybe even the dirt roads are going to be shut down for a good long while.  And I'm so not into the bike trainer.  Maybe once the roads clear I'll head up to the high country for some snow shoeing.  Because clearly I haven't learned my lesson about injuries from snow sports that I almost never do.

Went down a rabbit hole yesterday of holy crap it looks like I'm going to have to go to a race in Arkansas on May 1st if I want to qualify for USAT's offroad world championships in Canada in 2017 which has been my long term goal.  Because USAT thinks it's a great idea to have their off-road nationals at a poorly attended race in an obscure location in May before triathlon season kicks off for most people.  Hello USAT, do you see the snow?  Plus no place to get in open water before May 1st.  Maybe if you live in California or Arkansas you can be ready for this but for most of the country not so much.  It's easy to qualify for Worlds if you go to this race, you only have to finish in the top 18 or something in your age group and I doubt many if any age groups will have this many so pretty much just have to show up and finish.  With 5 weeks until the race there are only 115 people signed up, about 30 women and only 1 woman in my age group.  Not a lot of people going to be going to Canada next year.  The other way to qualify is to be ranked in the top 20 in your age group but they only take 2 people based on rankings and the slots roll down.  So if you're ranked 20 you have to hope that the 18 people ahead of you don't want to go.  And who knows how their rankings work.  I was ranked 8th out of 74 women overall in my age group and 3rd out of 14 in the Mountain Region in 2015 according to Xterra's rankings.  But USAT has me at 17 out of 23 (what happened to the other 51 women?).  And some of the women ahead of me only did one race or didn't even go to Nationals and some I had beaten at races and Xterra had me ranked ahead of them so I don't know how it works.  And I'm not interested enough to try to figure it out.  My coach told me she knows someone who went by petitioning USAT and so few people wanted to go that they allowed her.  Said it was super easy.  So if it comes down to it and I still want to go next year then that's what I'll do.  Because it's a 16 hour drive to freakin' Arkansas and while the race looks appealing, 4 days total of driving does not.  To go to Arkansas.  No offense to Arkansas but I have plenty of super nice places within 2 hours.  All for a race that is a year and half away.  So USAT Worlds in 2017 is on the back burner for now.  Not sure what my goals will be for the year now but I'll come up with something.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mesa Verde National Park Redux

We visited Mesa Verde for the first time ever last June which is criminal considering we've lived in Colorado for over 25 years, and it appears I never wrote about it back then.  I do remember it was hot and crowded and we were tired from Too Much Driving and also some biking at Phil's World.  But in February?  You pretty much have the joint to yourself.  Unfortunately Spruce House which is the largest most intact of the cave dwellings and the one you can usually go right up to, was closed due to a rock slide.  You can get kinda close, just not right up to the dwelling.

Spruce House in February

And some close-up shots from June last year

SO much nicer in February without the teeming hordes.  We drove through more of the park this time and took our time, reading the display signs, even went to the museum.

This one was my favorite, Square Tower House

So amazing how both the original inhabitants and the modern day folk who restored it accessed the area by climbing down on carved out hand and toe holds and ropes and ladders.

Some zoomed in views of other dwellings, much farther away than they look

And a wider shot to show the scale and context of the village.

It's hard to get a sense of scale for these Kivas and pit rooms.

To give an idea if you look in the rectangular depression in the photo above you can see a little dark blob.  Zoomed in it's this poor little guy.

Kinda spooky to find him there.

Another pit room

They even had multi-story cave dwellings

And Border Collies??!!  Showing no interest in a turkey??!!

View from the visitor center parking lot

Such a magical place.  Can't believe the BLM is allowing drilling and fracking right next to this place.  On our public lands.  And charging the oil companies a pittance.  Criminal.  The BLM folks in charge right now ought to be in jail for fraud and corruption, not managing our public lands.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Canyons of the Ancients

This place was so amazing and I'd only heard of it a month ago when I was talking to a local about trails.  And only a half hour drive from Cortez.

T-shirt weather in February!

The trail allows hiking, dogs, mountain bikes and unfortunately drilling.  Site of the McElmo Dome which holds asstons of CO2 which apparently is a valuable commodity to the oil and gas industry.  Who knew?  Supposedly Kinder Morgan, the company doing the drilling, has scaled back a significant amount of their operations due to the tanking of the oil and gas industry at the moment.  And no fracking has occured in all of Montezuma County between 2013-2015 and only one well in 2012.  But that could all change.  I'm anxious to see how this turns out and of course it will impact whether we move to the area or not.  Anyway, we couldn't see or hear any impacts from the drilling, if any was even going on.

The trail was beautiful.  My only regret is that we only went a mile or two up, had to leave Lola in the car because it was too steep for her and didn't want to leave her for too long.

The red and white rock formations reminded me of Sedona.

Maybe a cave dwelling?

So much awesomeness.  Can't wait to go back when I can explore a bit further.  Tough traveling with the dogs though, especially when Lola can go very far.  But the area is huge and if we move here there will be plenty to explore.

Friday, March 11, 2016

It's Where You Live

The weekend before last Jonny and I took an unplanned last minute trip down to the Southwest part of the state to check out Dolores, Cortez and Mancos.  I'd been down a month ago but this was his first time and my first chance to see the area in greater detail.  When I went down with my friend last month we only spent a half day in the area because our trip got cut short by an incoming snowstorm.  This time we had 2 full days.

We had the dogs with us which limited our choices of places to stay but I found a cool little 'Casita' in Mancos on VRBO for a reasonable price.  It turned out to be awesome, everything was brand new, we were only the third group of people to stay there.  We had a beautiful view of Mesa Verde National Park from our deck.

Was so awesome waking up to that every morning.  The Casita was on 10 acres so it was very peaceful and private.  There was a main house and a little bit of issue having to navigate the owners' dogs at first but it worked out fine in the end.  We even had a friendly cat come visit us at night.  I miss having a cat but it's too hard to keep the dogs from snacking out of a litter box and that grosses me out to no end.  And OMG the stars at night!!!  So spectacular.

Hanging out in the Casita

Mancos, Dolores and Cortez are about 15-20 minutes from each other and form a triangle of sorts around a rural piece of land, some of it flat, some of it hilly.  I had my eye on a 35 acre piece of land with a 'cabin' and the 2 parcels of 35 acres on either side for sale as a whole if you want.  Imagine having 100 acres all to yourself!  And for significantly cheaper than I can sell my Boulder shack.  But the drive to get there had a short but steep hill on a dirt road and some twisty bits.  Just a 10-15 minute drive from the main highway and mostly not too bad but still not something we want to have to do on a daily basis, especially in winter.  Plus the ugly power lines at the boundary of the property.  Lots of other possibilities in the area though.  And while driving around the dirt roads I spotted this:

And there was a sign up at the fairgrounds saying there was an agility trial that weekend put on by Vision Agility.  Some internet searching reveals that this is a commercial operation but unfortunately for me it's NADAC style/distance handling.  Not my cup of tea.  But nice to know there are fellow agility enthusiasts in them thar hills.

We checked out some houses that were for sale to get an idea of what we could afford and there were plenty of options, the biggest issue being the size of the places.  So huge.  Like this:

And 7 acres of land with water rights.  Plus super nice on the inside.  But sheesh, so big, 2400 square feet.  The thought of heating such a monstrosity and taking care of it is overwhelming, our current house is about 1100 square feet.  But so tempting with views like this:

And only 10 minutes from the grocery store, 20 minutes from trails at Boggy Draw, 6 minutes to Phil's World which is an amazing mountain bike mecca of awesomeness.  All easy driving.  Plus a pond on the property for dog swimming and a reservoir just down the road.

Boggy Draw

I know, what am I still doing here in Boulder?  The woman I traveled with last month went back to Durango with her husband 2 weeks ago and came home with a house.  Jonny and I joked that we had to resist the temptation to do the same.  But we need to work out the financials of how we'll survive there first and it seems real estate prices are continuing to rise here in Boulder and fall over there so it makes sense to wait things out a bit. 

And there are concerns - oil and drilling/fracking in the area and water rights are my main concerns.  I talked to a friend who lives near Durango and she stressed the importance of hiring a real estate lawyer who's also an expert in water and mineral rights.  There's a downturn in oil at the moment (which is probably why real estate prices are falling over there) and a contraction in oil operations for now but who knows what the future holds and the BLM is trying to open up almost all our public land to drilling/fracking and this includes areas next to Mesa Verde National Park and Phil's World.  So there are concerns and I want to see how these issues play out in the next year.

Abandoned Sinclair station on Hwy 160 between Mesa Verde and Mancos. 

On the other hand, Weld County which is next to Boulder County has by far the most amount of fracking and drilling in the whole state and Boulder has its own brown cloud so whatever is going on over there is probably not nearly as bad as here.

I've got a bunch more photos from Mesa Verde and Canyon of the Ancients but I'll do another post for those.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

FRAT USDAA Castle Rock

Rockin' it at Castle Rock.

Been ages since I've written about an agility trial.  This one was super fun - great courses (mostly), great weather, great people.  Mostly I'm happy to even be able to go because March is our snowiest month and this trial often gets snowed out for me because while it's only just over an hour's drive, I have to drive through all of Boulder, all of Denver and then the green belt to Castle Rock.  Didn't enter Team this year because the Denver rush hour traffic both ways on Friday was atrocious.  I love Team but not that much.  Though I heard this year was not so bad.

We started off Saturday with Masters Jumpers and ended Sunday with Biathlon Jumpers (ie Fancy Jumpers).  I put them back to back on video with Sunday's run first and it's funny to see the difference between first run of the trial and last run.  He was Crazypants for the first run, knocked 2 bars and had me worried that he's getting too old but looking at the video I think he was simply overexcited.  I was early in the run order and didn't get enough warm-up plus someone from way down in the running order in Championship (we were in Performance) was at the warm-up jump for reasons I can't possibly fathom.  In hindsight I should have booted her out but at the time I couldn't be bothered.

Masters Jumpers

Biathlon Jumpers

Biathlon and Masters Jumpers

Was pleased with both runs, Biathlon Jumpers being my favorite of the whole trial.  So many people got taken out by the off course tunnel entrance at #6 and that's a particularly difficult challenge for Strummer but I got his attention early and he listened beautifully.  To be fair, the jump was a double for Championship and only a single for Performance so he wasn't in as much extension but still, my timing was good and I made it up the opening line no problem.  Had a weave pole bobble but I've given up stressing about his weave poles.  I support him best as I can and he does what he does and I'm o.k. with it.  But I was so pleased with how well we both did on such a technical course, felt so smooth and connected.  Especially since it was last class of the day and we were both mentally tired.

 Steeplechase Round 1

Steeplechase Round 2

Steeplechase Rounds 1 and 2

Somehow I managed to fall during the opening sequence of Round 1.  Not sure what happened, my feet got tangled up or something.  Ended up with some road rash and impressive bruises and swelling on my shin and a cut on my hand but not hurt really.  And I got up and finished the course and still qualified for Finals though far down in the rankings due to lost time.  We redeemed ourselves with a second place finish in Finals.  More lost time due to popping out of weave poles but otherwise a nice fast run.  I bought some smoked marrow bones with our winnings so Lola will get a treat as well.  Plus I a bag of turkey hearts in the workers' raffle and bought a bag of duck feet.  Yes my life has taken a strange turn.

Grand Prix

Master Standard (Saturday)

 Grand Prix and Masters Standard (first video is Grand Prix, not Standard)

Nice runs with little faults here and there.  Of course he finally gets his dogwalk and misses other things.  The missed A-frame in Grand Prix was a handling error, I was too far behind and this impacted the weaves as well.  But otherwise a nice run, fun course.

Masters was another nice run but again with the weave poles and this left me a bit out of position for jump #17 where I ended up flat footed after a front cross after the weaves and ended up with (I think) a refusal at Jump #18.  Should have kept him on my left but didn't plan on being behind.  Got his dogwalk again, yay for that.  Thankfully we had no problem with the chute.  Much ugliness of photos of this on my Facebook this morning from other teams.

I didn't get video of Masters Challenge Standard but this was also a course of much chute ugliness, partly due to course design.  A front cross between Jumps #5 and #6 was challenging unless you could leave your dog on the teeter and many dogs came off the teeter sideways.  Then there was the risk of the A-frame/tunnel off course.  And if you didn't time it right the dog would go into the chute at too much of an angle leading to them getting tangled which quite a few dog did.  The trouble with a rear cross is that you also risked a bad angle or the same A-frame/tunnel off course if you shaped the line too much.  Plus calling the dog while in the chute also led to tangling.  I chose a rear and didn't bother to call his name, just let him come out turning the wrong way and let him turn on the flat before Jump #7.  Wasn't pretty but it was much better than risking a tangle in the chute.  However I had to go too close to #7 to manage his confusion and while I was able to pull off a front cross between #7 and #8 I was a bit behind and had to call him off #10 a little too hard/early and ended up with the off course tunnel entrance at #9 since I was too far behind.  It was close though, wish I had video of it.  Lots of people ended up with faults/off courses in this area.  I also ended up with a wrong course at #18, again with the weave poles.  Was surprised to see such a course design from this judge, I normally love her courses and I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before.  Watching from the stands I almost decided to pull from this class but decided to just let him go straight in the chute and turn him on the flat and accepting whatever happened after that.  Otherwise a very fun course.  We got through #13-#17 and I was pleased for that.

Overall I had a great time, was fun to chat with people I haven't seen in a while and watch the other runs.   Lots of great handling out there and some awesome performances from some of the baby dogs.  Training has come so far these days, it was amazing seeing some of those baby dogs knocking it out of the park.