SUMMARY: Photos from Tuesday's trip.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
SUMMARY: From San Jose to Scottsdale and safely arrived.
Fellow Bay Teamer Nancy and her two pomeranians spent the night at our place last night so that we could get an early start this morning. Planned time of departure was 8:00 and we made it within a few minutes thereof.
The trip down was uneventful. We passed a convoy of firetrucks from Washington going down I-5, presumably towards all the SoCal fires. Stopped at Buttonwillow at the Subway sandwich shop for lunch, and took just too long pottying the dogs and ourselves, because the convoy apparently also decided that Subway looked like the perfect firefighters' luncheon supplier, and there were suddenly about 3 million of them in line. A motley looking crew, indeed, except that many of them wore t-shirts with the name of their firefighting crew (which at the moment escapes me).
So we bagged that and went to Taco Bell.
Passed another convoy of trucks that were headed north, presumably going home.
Lots of haze but couldn't see any active fires from where we were. Passed Santa Clarita area, where one had been burning, and Lake Arrowhead area, where another big one had caused some evacuation.
Stopped at a rest stop just short of Blythe at sunset; not only saw a lovely sunset but also a large tarantula who was trying to find the ideal parking spot. A bunch of us tourists took flash photos and tried to scare him away from the auto area, without much luck.
It's late, I'm tired; I'll upload some photos tomorrow.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
SUMMARY: Good practice today, but tired.
Every year, the weekend before Nationals, Power Paws Agility hosts a nationals practice for their students. It's lovely--free--plus snacks and drinks--plus courses from previous Nationals Grand Prixs and variations thereof.
Today's weather was absolutely lovely for it. Not too warm, but sunny. Just a teeny breeze. Hazy--apparently we're getting a wee bit of the air crud from the southern california fires, 300 miles and more south from here! Amazing.
I ran Boost, even though she's not competing. She did very well. Knocked a couple of bars when I called her wrong, had a couple of runouts on tough pulls, and skipped the second weave pole on a tough entry that almost everyone (except Tika, woot!) had trouble with, but she got it easily the second time around the course, and not everyone did. And her contacts remain fast and accurate.
Tika ran well enough, but I notice the lack of speed especially in comparison to Boost. She moves efficiently around the course, but she doesn't drive like I've seen her do sometimes, or like when she spies a squirrel, or even when I'm tossing the frisbee. This is summed up as follows: In two of the previous 3 years at Nationals, her speed was plenty fast enough to get her into the Grand Prix semifinals, but each time we had a 5-point fault, which dropped us just below the cut-off point. If she had been half a second to a second faster, even the fault wouldn't have kept us out.
But she did her contacts fairly quickly today, even the dogwalk, which I've been working on lately for speed (although never enough, never enough!).
The worst part of today was how tired and brick-like my legs were, once again, from yesterday's mile test at Boot Camp. First 3 or 4 runs were OK, but my feeble attempts at sprinting became less sprintlike and more thudlike; after run #8 (4 each dog), three and a half hours after the first one, I called it quits for the day.
My first run at Scottsdale isn't until Thursday, so I should be hale and hearty by then. The trick is to keep up with my daily one-mile walks to maintain my stamina for the site, without overextending myself.
SUMMARY: Boot Camp was good; some measurable improvements.
With some regrets, I bid my 4-week Boot Camp session a fond farewell. If I'm conscientious about continuing what I've started, my general fitness will continue to improve.
There's that "if", though; one of the things about BC is that the instructor calls out what to do and for how long and ensures that you get an appropriate mix of exercises across the week. The next thing is the interaction with others. The third thing is being outside at a nice park. I moved my exercycle outside this spring, but I find that, now, mostly I notice all the yard chores that remain undone. But it is more pleasant than being inside, where it's tedious and confining, like being in a gym.
That aside, I made progress. I can jump rope better than I could at the beginning. I improved my mile time in 3 weeks from 11:44 to 10:51. I did 9 push-ups compared with 7 three weeks ago--and that's after almost 2 weeks of not being able to do much of anything involving my shoulders because of the bursitis. I thought I wasn't going to be able to do the push-up test, but tried one cautiously and discovered that it didn't hurt.
My official evaluation had my weight and assorted measurements mostly the same, although, interestingly, my hips are 2 inches narrower (and my bust is an inch narrower, drat!). I tried to wear the same type of clothes that I wore the first time--no girdles or bustiers. And my body fat measures down 2 pounds but muscle up 1 pound, according to their little gadget.
All in all, not a bad start.
Friday, October 26, 2007
SUMMARY: Team shirts are almost done.
In an unfortunate twist, Carlene's & my third teammate, Mike, hurt his back pretty thoroughly a couple of weeks ago and won't be able to run his dog at Scottsdale. Fortunately, his wife is also a fine agility competitor and contacted USDAA to be sure that it's OK for her run Trane. That means that she's going to have to wear one of Mike's team shirts on our Special Day--that is, whichever day we decide to wear our shirts together, since the odds that we'll make it to the Relay finals again are so long as to be circumglobal.
Last weekend, I got to see our mostly completed team shirts. Tika, the Aussie-probably, is teaming with two Border Collies. All of us have our issues, shall we say, so we're Borderin' on K-Aus (say it out loud).
This will be the fourth year that my team's shirt is tie-dye by Wendywear (local work for agility folks). Our shirt pairs the black-and-white of border collies with a little tie-dye chaos. Here's my concept sketch; I can assure you that the actual shirts will be niftier. I'm excited. (Remember, it's all about the clothing.)
You can see the artwork, or finished results, for a lot of clever Bay Teamers' team outfits on this new page.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
SUMMARY: Long-time Pairs Relay rule apparently isn't.
In USDAA pairs relay, if there are an odd number of dogs, one of the dogs who is already entered in another pair can run a second time (as the "accommodating dog") so that the leftover dog can compete. The rules in Chapter 6 for Relay state that this additional run is nonqualifying for the accommodating dog, which is fine.
However, although everyone knows that the accommodating dog must run the opposite half of the course from what they run with their original team, in fact that rule doesn't seem to be in the rulebook. I asked a bunch of folks about it after trying to explain the rules to a non-USDAA person and finding that I couldn't find it anywhere. Don't it make you wonder what other "rules" are really just word of mouth?
I shouldn't have said anything and just used it as a secret weapon at some future time: "No, I'm not going to run a different half; tell me where in the rules it says that I have to?" But noooooo--I had to blab my question to everyone and now JB says he's going to bring it up to the rules committee to make sure that it gets into the next rules book. Ah, well, better luck next omission.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
SUMMARY: When I'll be traveling, where I'll be.
Seven days from now I expect to be an hour on the road towards Scottsdale.
Leaving: My traveling companion is coming down from San Francisco Monday night so that we can load up the car and be ready to go at the crack of wakey-wakey Tuesday morning. She'll have her two Pomeranians, and I'll have Boost and Tika.
Travel: It's about 10-11 hours of driving time, plus stops. Plan is to go down I-5, east on "the 210", then cut over to I-10 to Phoenix. Going among the southern california fires will be like driving through the suburbs of Hell itself. We can only hope that none of these freeways will have to be closed as we go through or come back. (Last year there was a huge fire south of I-10 which, I believe, briefly closed I-10 or other freeways in the vicinity.)
We'll drive all day Tuesday and arrive by bedtime in Scottsdale.
Hotel: Staying at the Thunderbird Suites where, in the past, they've had Internet access; I hope to be able to post at least brief blog notices here and maybe a wiki page on the Bay Team site.
Crating space: When I find out my crating space info, I'll post that, too.
Running group: I'm running Tika in Group A 26", Grand Prix quarterfinals (dang 5-point faults!) and Team only.
Coming home: We're staying through the Grand Prix finals on Sunday and then possibly driving through the night (with rest stops as needed, or maybe a hotel, who knows), arriving home Monday the 5 (happy birthday, Linda).
Ellen's scheduleHere's my walkthrough and running schedule for the event, along with the finals and so on that I'm planning on watching. See you all there!
10:00 set-up open
1:00-4:00 check in
6:30-8:30 awards dinner
7:14-7:24 Ring 6 Walk Team Jumpers
7:42-7:52 Ring 4 Walk Team Snooker
9:00-10:10 Ring 6 Run Team Jumpers
1:20-2:35 Ring 4 Run Team Snooker
7:28-7:38 Ring 1 Walk Grand Prix Quarter
7:42-7:52 Ring 3 Walk Team Standard
10:25-11:10 Ring 1 Run GP Quarter
11:40-12:55 Ring 3 Run Team Standard
9-5? Course-a-lure, boost?
6:30 Ring 1 PNS Finals (watch)
7:14-7:24 Ring 3 Walk Team Gamblers
8:24-8:34 Ring 2 Walk GP Semis (tbd)
10:05-11:25 Ring 3 Run Team Gamblers
3:25-4:00 Ring 2 Run GP Semis (tbd)
9-5? Course-a-lure, boost?
6:00 Steeplechase & PSJ finals (watch)
7:15-7:25 Ring 5 Walk Stplch classic
8:00-8:45 Ring 5 Run Stplch classic
9-5? Course-a-lure, boost?
a.m. Ring 1 Relay finals (tbd)
a.m.? Ring 1 Veterans Showcase
p.m.? Ring 1 PNS finals
p.m. Ring 1 Grand Prix finals
Monday, October 22, 2007
SUMMARY: What's the difference?
OK, you agility geniuses. Grand Prix is basically just a Masters Standard course without the table, right?
So why on earth does Tika run clean in Masters Standard more than 20% of the time, but only 10% of the time in Grand Prix?
(As a side note, 45% of her Grand Prixs are 5-point-fault runs, but only 20% of her Standard runs--which brings up the question of why she gets 0 or 5 faults in 55% of her Grand Prixs but only in 40% of her standard? Only 6% are table-related, near as I can tell, so that doesn't make up the difference.)
SUMMARY: Only one masters team of 36 ran clean.
Here's the course that Tika and her partner ran clean on--through sheer luck in some ways, really, since Tika often knocks bars (as we all know). But we also had the easier, first half of the course (white circles), which was basically a big circle with only a little RFP required between the dogwalk and the #5 jump to give them a good enough angle to it.
The second half (dark circles) seemed to be the killer. Several places on the course with threadles or near-threadles (4 to 5, 5 to 6, 7 to 8, 9 to 10, and 10 to 11, depending on your dog's stride length and how you handled them. I think that there were just a lot of bars on some of the turns; only 9 of the 36 Eed with off-courses, so it wasn't completely wiping people out.
Interestingly, all (or all but one) of the five Performance 3 teams ran clean.
(To download a larger image of this image, click and hold over the map--maybe right-click and hold--and you'll get a "save image as" menu choice.)
Sunday, October 21, 2007
SUMMARY: Boost and Tika each earn 3 Qs
You know that they say to be careful what you wish for, but also one must be careful in HOW one wishes for it, too. Tika's qualification rate has been around 50% in USDAA pretty steadily for at least the last year, maybe 2. But I've been saying that I wanted to earn more placements. Well-- we seem to be doing that at the expense of our qualifying percentage. I don't think that I've really changed my competing habits much, either.
This weekend, Tika and her partner, a fast little Aussie, had the third fastest time in Pairs Relay, but we were the ONLY Masters team of 37 teams (!) to run clean, so we took first. That's pretty cool. And Tika managed to keep all her bars up in today's Snooker for a Super-Q and a third place of 21 dogs, which is also cool.
But her only other Q was our usual 5-point-fault Grand Prix. So only 3 for 9 Qualifiers.
Didn't get either of the gambles, and I wanted one so badly to finish her Bronze Gamblers that it put me quite out today when, for some unknown reason, I didn't hear the buzzer to start the gamble. I was running Tika around frantically to try to find more obstacles to do in the opening, and noticed suddenly that the judge wasn't calling points, at about the same time that he said, "that was your buzzer", but by then I was out of position and way too late for a gamble that I think we would have gotten fairly easily.
Missed Jumpers today by one knocked bar. Missed Standard by one knocked bar (and a long sniffing episode where she thought that she smelled some treat in the grass on course as she ran by. Man, she can stop quickly when she wants to!) Back to bar-knocking drills.
BOTH dogs got through a complicated Snooker opening on Saturday, only to have a refusal at #3 in the closing. Clearly something defective with my dogs; it couldn't have anything to do with ME.
BoostInterestingly, Boost also had 3 Qs this weekend. Of course I'd expect an experienced Masters dog like Tika to earn more Qs than a baby dog. But I'm pleased to get 3 Qs. One was in Standard again, and the other was in today's Snooker.
What's funny is that the USDAA Tournament qualifying (for Nationals) season runs September through September. Boost started competing last September, and in seven tries during the year, she didn't earn a single Grand Prix qualifier (two are required to compete at Nationals). Now that we're in the new qualifying year, she has proceeded to earn two GP Qs out of two tries, so she's now already qualified for NEXT November's Grand Prix Nationals. Silly girl.
She did very well in her weave poles this weekend. In her first attempt on Saturday, she popped out early, and I told her that wasn't a good idea and took my time about figuring out where she popped out, getting her lined up, and making her do those last 2 poles, then praised enthusiastically when she did them as we continued. I vowed that the next time she popped out early I'd pick her up and take her off the course, and told her so. So she behaved beautifully in all her other weaves! You just have to explain these things in plain English, apparently.
They were good enough that I even got brave in today's Snooker, which was the last run of the day. The 7-point obstacle was the weaves, and you were required to take four reds, AND the weaves were right in the middle of 3 of the reds, so what else could one do? Even the conservative runners did at least 2 sets of weaves.
We attempted three sets in the opening. I don't remember what order they occurred--one set was perfect, one set she went in the correct way but hit the pole and sort of bounced into the 3rd pole instead of the 2nd, so we had to restart it, and once she went in at the second pole and we also had to restart it. But they were mostly challenging entrances, so she did pretty good, and she went all the way to the end in all cases, even as I moved away from her or crossed in front at the end. In the closing, she skipped a pole, but we had just run out of time, so I just ran her off the course and celebrated having a nice run. And it was enough points for a Q, so that was OK.
On Saturday's Snooker, I led out a long way across the field, turned and looked right at her over the top of the first jump, released her--and she ran AROUND the jump. So there's something else to work on.
Mostly, though, she ran nicely and still a whole level above where she was just a couple of months ago. She's progressing nicely, I think.
Friday, October 19, 2007
SUMMARY: I hope that good practices make for good competition.
Wednesday night in class, Tika was excited and drivey--I think because we had P-I-Z-Z-A! I saved half a piece to use as a reward for her during class, wrapped it up, tucked it into my bag, and zipped the bag partway. Three minutes later, I turned around to see Tika licking the crumbs off the ground after polishing off the whole piece. Dang dog. But she ran well, had fast contacts, might have knocked a bar but I don't remember doing so.
It was "W" night for food. So the pizza was Wombo Combo. Also had Wasabi-flavored potato chips, White corn tortillas, and assorted dips to dip them in. Topped off with those famous candy-coated chocolates with the little "W" on them, W&Ws (you know--welt in your wouth, not in your hand?).
Boost's practice last night was mahvelous, simply mahvelous! We looked and felt like a Masters team. It felt goooood. She hit all of her weave entries, even some tricky ones, and she stayed in through the end even when they were aimed at a blank hedge and I moved away from her while she did them. She had one really ugly face plant when I signalled badly, and I was afraid she'd hurt herself, but she popped right up and kept going.
Instructor N noted, when Boost knocked a bar, that I had successfully called right on top of the jump AGAIN. I commented that I seem to have successfully trained myself to be unable to do anything EXCEPT call on top of the bar. So she had me try an experiment: For the next run, I *tried* to say something on top of every jump. Apparently I did well at that, from the observers, but Boost didn't knock any bars and it got me completely confused in my handling. The next round, I tried saying something 5 feet before every jump. Instructor said I was all over the place, not just 5', sometimes speaking earlier, sometimes right on top of the bar. I felt mostly discomboobulated.
The third time, I was supposed to try it 8 feet in front of the jump for every jump, and all I did was completely bobble the course and, by the time Boost was showing her complete confusion, we called *that* experiment quits, because we had pretty much proven the point that, in fact, I *have* trained myself to call her on top of the jumps (I thought I was joking athough I know it's been a problem) and that that's something I need to work on at home, just on a straight line of jumps, even, practice just saying "go" or something about 5 to 8 feet before every jump, before working around to actually call her over jumps while turning.
Poor baby border collie! No wonder she has problems--
Anyway, it's off to USDAA this weekend in Madera. We'll see whether, out of 9 runs, she can get her 2nd Masters leg. And whether Tika can get one more Gamblers leg to complete her Bronze Gamblers Champion title--two opportunities. Only one Jumpers this weekend, and Tika needs three of those for Bronze, which would also complete her entire Bronze Championship, so looks like we'll have to wait until well into next spring for that to happen.
Then a weekend off and then it's beat feet for Scottsdale.
THEN it's no competitions (for us--I'm taking the time off--) until the end of january except for the Thanksgiving CPE extravaganza.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
SUMMARY: I said there'd be more, and photos, too, so here ya go.
At 5:00 that day, business was winding down on a bright October afternoon. I was in my company's glass-walled demo room with two other people, finishing a demo of our computers for a client from Texas. Suddenly, the floor started moving, then heaving. I looked around--glass walls everywhere. You're not supposed to stand near glass. Only one small table. Only one solid wall, lined by computers. I slipped between the computers and the wall. Being demo computers, they were on wheels, so I braced myself against the wall as the computers rolled out and back, out and back, trying to smash my in my "safe" location.
"What is it? What's happening?" said the client from Texas, crouched in the middle of the floor to keep from being knocked off her feet. "It's an earthquake," we said, and, being good Californians, waited for it to pass. It went on much longer than we had expected, but still not REALLY that long, and we came out from our assorted hiding places laughing a bit.
In our sunny room, we didn't realize that the power had gone out. The room also held up marvelously well, apparently; as we brushed ourselves off, stampedes of people plummeted down the stairs from the upper floor in barely contained disorder, stunned looks on their faces. That's when we realized that something truly out of the ordinary had occurred.
Security and management hustled everyone out to the parking lot, where we stood around helplessly--all of our wallets, purses, car keys remained in our offices in the building. Eventually, as the aftershocks came less often and reduced in intensity, management chaperoned us back into the building six at a time to hurriedly grab only our most important items and then return to our cars.
I've posted photos and other memorabilia, with commentary, on this SmugMug gallery.
This USGS map shows the intensity of shaking that people felt. The star is the epicenter. I was working and living above the star, below the "N" in "San Jose". (Click on the image here to go the the USGS site for an interactive map and access to other maps for other quakes.)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
SUMMARY: As promised, some photos from the Los Gatos Creek Trail
|Showing off my new muscles (and camp shirt) before this morning's 3-mile hike. But I'm no dummy--note, if you will, that you can't actually see whether the muscles are real or simply bunched-up fleece sweater.|
|Drill Instructor Brett guides our small class in gentle stretching before the hike. (Note: Me not in photo. Me snap picture. Give finger good work-out.)|
|At our beginning point on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the class sets out ahead of me, while I (for some reason) fall behind...|
|...and further behind... Note that CA Route 17 whips by just inches from us here. But along most of the trail's length, you can't see it, and although the noise is there, you can still talk comfortably (if you're not gasping for breath going uphill).|
|...and yet further behind... (When I was done snapping photos here, I jogged to catch up.) Trails run along both sides of Los Gatos Creek, which flows in its natural habitat--a concrete channel. (Further downstream, parts are in a more natural state with wide flood control.)|
|Mileage marker; we think that's how many miles from Forbes Mill in Los Gatos, which is just a little ways before where we actually started.|
|Small waterfall in the mossy creek bed.|
|Much of the trail runs through woodland. Although the concrete creek bed is to the left, it's mossy enough not to look awful, and although the freeway is to your right, you can't see it; along this stretch, it's just the pipeline you see (probably water from the dam flowing to percolation ponds...hmm, probably what Wikipedia has identified as government-speak depression focused recharge , the local water district technically calls groundwater recharge systems-- or see this glossary).|
|The beginning of the only real hill before the dam.|
|Hill doesn't look bad in the photo--hard to capture that extreme rise in elevation.|
|James J. Lenihan Dam turning Los Gatos creek into Lexington Reservoir. This viewpoint is where I turned around today (last week I got partway up the dam) because I kept pace with the last walker in our group because I need to be able to run in class tonight with Tika.|
SUMMARY: And where were YOU?
The Loma Prieta earthquake struck. Can you believe that there will now be people old enough to vote who weren't born when it hit? When I have a little time--not today--I'll post some memorabilia from that little episode in Bay Area history.
(Later: Here's the additional post with lots of commentary.)
Monday, October 15, 2007
SUMMARY: Filling in some updates.
Demo and possible agility siteSaturday's demo was well-received by the horsey set. They burst into delighted laughter and cheers and applause when a dog did the weaves or the teeter. Cheering and applause for every run. A good group to demo for.
On the down side, the arena was a bowl of mush after rain the night before. So now we know that these arenas won't do after rain. And that was only one day of not-too-awful rain, too.
Took us a while to find someone who could tell us where we were supposed to be. After we found someone who could send for the correct someone who was responible for us, we had much discussion and exploration about where the footing was good enough to do agility, so wasted more time. Our trailer ended up in the wrong area of the horsepark, blocked in among horse trailers, trucks, and so on (thinking he'd be staying there for a while) and, once we finally found where we were supposed to be, he took 10 minutes to figure out how to turn around and get to the proper spot. As a result, instead of doing an hour demo, we did about 25 minutes. And about 30 dogs showed up, so we each got exactly one run.
We trashed our plans for a full course and came up with something on the fly that was interesting but that fit into the only usable, reasonably firm footing (among gooshy areas), about 60 feet long by 15 feet wide. We didn't use the A-frame, dogwalk, or chute.
Both my dogs went into the weaves at full speed and then pulled out and dashed in front of me to tell me in an excited way that they didn't understand the footing. I made them try again and both did fine the 2nd time.
I had said that I'd come if there weren't enough dogs, and the organizer said that they always need more dogs. Huh. To me, 6-8 dogs, maybe 10, is a good demo group. So I drove 45 minutes, spent an hour futzing around, waiting, and setting up, got in one run with each dog, packed up for the next half hour, then drove home 45 minutes. I'd have never taken the dogs for one run. Oh, well. And they insisted that we finish up at 6:30 as planned, although there was nothing after that. Probably issues with closing the park at sunset or the equivalent.
Boost weavesBut I did make them leave the weaves and one tunnel set up just long enough for me to put Boost through the weaves twice more, and sure enough, the 2nd time she popped out early as per last weekend. So I grabbed her under the chest, raised her front feet off the ground (she was coated with horse-arena sand so I didn't want to pick her up), told her that she shouldn't do that, and redid the weaves, which she then did correctly.
OK, so if that fixes THAT problem again, then the trip was worth it. But the dogs were both rarin' to go when I got home instead of having any steam worked off, having been in crates for the better part of 3 hours.
Boot CampI filled out an evaluation for the first week of Boot Camp, giving it 10 out of 10 on pretty much everything. Drill instructor is good, workout is good and pushes my comfort level, we keep moving in a variety of things, so just when you think you can't take another ab exercise, we move into something else. And the final few minutes, lying under the open sky and doing cool-down stretches, feels like heaven.
On the down side, all my weak parts are taking notice. Bursitis in my shoulders, which hasn't bothered me in a year, flared up Friday. I wasn't aware of doing anything in Friday's session that aggravated it, but both Friday night and Saturday night I had trouble sleeping from the pain in the left shoulder. Today I discovered that it's apparently the push-ups that did it--as soon as I tried one, it hurt immediately. That's disappointing, as upper-body strength was one of my reasons for wanting Boot Camp. Plus pushups are one of the two measures they use for your progress during camp. He had me do other types of exercises while the others pushed up.
I guess I need to do more work at home with resistance bands at a lower intensity. Sigh. That's what they had me do for physical therapy when I first hurt the shoulders--using crutches improperly about 10 years ago. Of course I stop doing the exercises when the pain finally goes away. Duh. But it's just BORRRRINNNNG--
Knee tells me that it doesn't want to jog first thing in the session, but after I'm well warmed up, it doesn't bother me much and I can jog fairly well; it's still the knee and not the cardio that's keeping me from pushing myself on the running.
I don't feel nearly as tired today as I did last Friday. In fact, after my usual nap, I was thinking about walking with the dogs, but it has started raining again and I'm a wimp. Hmm, wait, maybe it has let up.
Knocking barsWe did get in a couple of good agility practice sessions today, once after Boot Camp and again midafternoon. Boost knocked bars like crazy again. Last week we got in a couple of bar-knocking drill sessions... have done quite a few lately and The Booster didn't seem to be getting it; then at the last session, again, something seemed to click, and I couldn't get her to knock a bar fer nuthin'. But, today, we were back to the beginning. It's always something.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
SUMMARY: Agility demo with the dogs at the Woodside Horse Park.
The weather is absolutely lovely today. Knee is much better, although not perfect (may never be again, of course). We're driving up to Woodside this afternoon to give an agility demo at the Horse Park. Some sort of Horse Show is going on during the day, and we're the wrap-up event while the horse participants and observers are sipping champagne and eating strawberries. Or something like that.
For us--just a fun, free chance to practice. One member has his own small trailer with equipment and designs a course that encompasses both a novice path and a masters path. Long gone are the days when we were eager to do demos just to promote the sport of agility--back when I started, almost no one had heard of dog agility; now, almost everyone has seen it on TV or knows someone who does it. Sure, we still promote the sport as a healthy activity with one's dog, but now it's as much for our own benefit.
A couple of our members have been giving classes at the horsepark for several years, but on a small patch of hillside that's only about a quarter of the size of a single ring. We've had a seminar or two and have done previous demos up there in their main arena, but supposedly it's been completely redone and they're under newer management and eager to sign us up to do major agility events there. We'd love it if we could switch from Twin Creeks, which is so expensive with such restrictive rules. USDAA now requires the regionals to be on grass, and this arena is dirt, so we couldn't do the Labor Day Regionals there.
We're pondering doing other trials, there, though, if the surface looks good enough (and they'd wet it and compact it before our events, anyway). This is a chance for some of us to give it a go.
Friday, October 12, 2007
SUMMARY: Wiped out from boot camp; affects working with my dogs.
(Huh, did Blogger's default set-up just change? Font sizes on the whole page while I'm editing are much smaller than usual. All other sites are the same--)
Wednesday night was Tika's class. I didn't feel sore after that morning's walk, but I discovered that my legs felt like stone when I started trying to run with Tika. Could barely move those gams. It was hard to get much faster that a moderate jog, and there I was, trying to drive Tika down contacts or beat her in a front-cross maneuver. It's counter-productive to keep running her when I'm not peppy, as she starts slowing down, too, and I don't need that to happen this close to Nationals.
Maybe the Wednesday morning hiking thing won't be the grand benefit that I thought it might. After all, I typically cover 10 miles a day on an agility weekend (per my pedometer). But, of course, most of it isn't all at once or as intense as the hike. We'll see how I do next Wednesday night; I might have to bag the morning hike the last week, which is right before Nationals, or at least just do a leisurely walk.
Thursday night for Boost's class I was fine. And, of course, she doesn't need me to be as peppy all the time as Tika needs to maintain her drive.
This morning it rained fairly heavily off and on, so instead of being in the park doing our circuits of exercises, we were in the gym and the shopping center (outdoors center), doing a lot of jogging and leg exercises. Then I missed my afternoon nap while my company's computer expert came down here to help me try to solve some problems. I am exhausted. My knee is very unhappy. I've been icing it all day, and it's still unhappy. Had no energy to figure out what to do with the dogs in the rain; inside exercise requires a lot more activity from me (can't just throw the toy 80' across the yard over and over). So dogs are antsy.
Really need to lie down. Really need to sleep. Really it's only 7:30. Bleah. Maybe I'll go have a hot shower and see how I feel after that. If I can stand up that long. Hmmm, no, think I'll go lie down.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
SUMMARY: A decent workout over about 3 miles.
We hiked the Los Gatos Creek Trail from downtown Los Gatos to the Lexington Reservoir dam. My pedometer was seriously confused and registered only a mile, but it's roughly a mile and a half one way. So, in 50 minutes, I covered about 3 miles.
It's a gradual uphill on a smooth, wide, unpaved trail running along the Los Gatos Creek and just below Highway 17 (which you barely notice is there). Nearing the dam, there are a couple of short, moderately steep uphills, and then the final climb alongside the dam is also moderately steep. I had just reached the base of that final climb when time ran out and it was time to turn back, but I walked up about halfway to meet the farthest person coming down and we walked briskly together back to our starting point.
We did a few quick warm-ups before setting out. Drill Instructor encouraged us to jog, and some of us did some on our way up (I might have been able to do more if I had remembered to take a hit off my inhaler before starting), but as far as I know only one person did any jogging on the way back. My legs were getting plenty of a workout. On the way up, talking was possible but with an effort; on the way back, talking was a bit easier but still not gaspless. So the cardio workout was pretty good either way.
I've walked this trail below Los Gatos and above the dam on various occasions, but somehow never this stretch. It's a lovely walk in the woods most of the way, then out in the open along the creek canyon before the dam. I'll have to do this one more often.
Also, I could probably take my snapshot camera and get a couple of pix next week.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
SUMMARY: I see improvements already.
After only a week--4 days--of Boot Camp, I've noticed some improvements already. One thing I'd really like to improve is my stamina for agility. I cover so much ground on agility weekends and still want to stay pumped for my dogs before, during, and immediately after their runs so that they're pumped and rarin' to go. I felt somewhat more energetic before many of my runs--it's subjective, and only a vague sense of improvement, and I still dragged plenty by the time my 20th run was over, but there were times when I surprised myself at how much pep I still had.
One of the exercises we do every day is jumping rope. It seemed so simple when I was 8! The first day, I couldn't get a rhythm going and got caught in the rope every 2 or 3 rotations. Wednesday was marginally better. Friday I started to feel the rhythm but was still laughably inept. Monday--yes, exhausted from the weekend--I did 3 sets of 15 without missing a single one, but as the final exercise set rolled around, I again tangled up three or 4 times. But what progress on balance and coordination in only a week!
We do several dumbbell exercises. I started with 3-pounders. (And gaped in awe at the hundred-pounders at their gym.) Yesterday I moved up to 5-pounders for half the exercises, although had to return to 3's when I couldn't complete a set.
I started picking up the pace in the jogging, too. Maybe my thighs are improving already, too; knee seems to be bothering me less each session. Same thing for jumping jacks; first day I did an alternative form just side-stepping because it bothered the knee too much, but yesterday most of the sets I did regular jumping jacks (although still not "jumping" very high or hard to protect that very knee).
I did 4 sets of 15 push-ups against the picnic table top--4!--with only the last couple of the last sets being truly pathetic.
Wednesdays are hike days; I'm looking forward to this (I can do hiking!...says here...). It's supposed to rain in the early morning, but I expect by 9:00 we should be fine. I'm curious how different hiking with Boot Camp is from hiking with assorted friends.
Monday, October 08, 2007
SUMMARY: I'm discouraged about Nationals. And an interesting Standard Course on Saturday.
- Of the 52 dogs entered in Saturday's 22" Masters Standard class, there were 6 Aussies, one Aussie cross, one Australian Cattle Dog, and one over-the-top Tervuren. The rest were Border Collies. Somehow this depresses me, even though one of them is my own sweetie, The Booster herself.
- Of the 23 in 26", a "mere" half were Border Collies. More variety here: Three Aussies, a Rough Collie, a Whippet, a Terv, a Catahoula Leopard Dog, a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever, and three mixed breeds.
- If Tika's Top Ten Standard points were on the USDAA standings page right now, she'd be tied for 21st (with 25 points). But the stats are a month behind at the moment, and I know for a fact that at least 3 of the people on that list have had at least 3 more weekends of placements (including this weekend's Sunday Standard). So we're still soooo not there.
- Why am I bothering with Grand Prix at Nationals? Tika almost never runs clean. When she does, the gap between her time and the winning times is getting slowly wider and wider. I don't think that she's slowing down much--her times are still fairly consistently in the 4.5 to 4.9 yards per second range. But her time--while excited--on this weekend's course was 5 and a half seconds slower than the fastest dog. That's nearly 20% slower. Twenty percent! I think that the younger, faster dogs keep coming in faster and faster. The only reason that we earned a 1st in Standard was because all the other 26" dogs knocked bars or crapped out. Sure, running clean on that course was a good thing. But she was still 6 seconds slower than the fastest dogs. Six! That's an eternity.
- On the other hand, we can do Team. Because, in team, bar-knocking matters so much less than off-coursing, and we're pretty good about staying on course. And because we can usually rack up points in gambles by picking good strategies and executing smoothly. Still, I think that last year's Finals appearance was a fluke--that, once again, we lucked out that the fast teams happened to hit courses where they crapped out, and we just kept plugging along and got lucky that none of us had a bad run. Seems SO unlikely that that will happen again this year.
- So why the heck am I going and spending all that time and money? This weekend has only discouraged me. That, plus the fact of having been unable to qualify Tika in Steeplechase, and of having only one dog to run for the first time out of my assorted 8 Nationals appearances. Instead of looking forward to a relaxed week, I'm feeling like I'm slipping, my dogs are slipping, my expectations are too high.
- Maybe I'm just tired. Exhausted. It was SO hard to drag out of bed and do Boot Camp this morning, but I did it.
- Are local people NUTS? While I (and I'm not the only one I've heard say so) am burning out on so much agility and time and money, local clubs, including mine, are working FOUR more USDAA trials into the yearly schedule! One argument was that there will be "only" three DAM team events in the Bay Area next year, so a fourth would be good. Jeez--I remember when there used to be one every other year in the Bay Area. One of the usual September trials hereabouts actually LOST money this time--it was the last qualifier of the year, and I suspect that people (like me) had either qualified already or just wanted a break between the Labor Day regionals and the other 3 USDAA trials running alternate weekends from now through Nationals. Can this area really support that many USDAA trials, on top of the CPE, AKC, and ASCA? And now a couple of clubs are doing DOCNA, too!
Saturday's StandardSo, what was Saturday's Master Standard that wiped out so many dogs? Here ya go.
- There were some problems with bars, offcourses, and refusals from 3 to 4 because of the sharp turn. Some people pulled and rear crossed 4 or ran behind the tunnel, others got ahead on the teeter and front crossed between 3 and 4. That worked nicely for both of my dogs; I think that was the better option if you could do it.
- Some offcourses shooting out of #4 and getting a paw onto the dogwalk before the handler could get to the end of #4 or call the dog off.
- A lot of dogs coming off the dogwalk headed for the tunnel instead of the tire. I don't think that anyone expected that, but probably because of the extreme angle of the tire, dogs coming of the dogwalk, with the handler running behind trying to catch up, really didn't see any obstacles except the tunnel. After watching a bunch of those, I ran on the left side of the dogwalk, figuring that then she'd be erring toward looking at me. Instead, when she didn't stick her contact or wait for me (argh, she *also* took a couple of steps towards the tunnel, but at least I was in a position to call her off instead of trying to handle it from behind.
- The 8-9-10 seqence vexed many people; quite a few popped weaves because the handler hung back to make a break for #9; knocked bars or runouts on #9; offcourses after 9 or around 9 onto the Aframe (yes!) or into the wrong side of #10.
- There were quite a few knocked bars in the 11-13 sequence, particularly 11, I believe (it wasn't a straight line from 10 to 12).
- Problems of many varieties in the 16-19 sequence. It was mu subjective opinion that people who could put a front cross between the chute and #17 and therefore push out to #18 had a better chance of avoiding knocking 17 or having a runout when the dog pulled inside #18.
- Seems to me that there were issues in the 18-19-20, as well, but I don't recall anything sticking out in particular. Some people got a front cross in before 19 (I did) and I thought it worked more smoothly than sending to #18 and running on the chute side of 19, because if you were behind your dog there, you risked a bar down when trying to push or pull from behind--unless the dog is really accustomed to working like that.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
SUMMARY: A rare Tika 1st place; Boost's first Masters Q; lovely weather; low Q rate overall.
- The weather was lovely for October. I've been to many miserable rainy October trials (and, in contrast, that horrific Oakland fire was on a hot October weekend). Cold at night, but warmed up during the day. Almost hot for an hour or two Sunday afternoon, but still cool in the shade.
- I could hardly wait to get Boost into masters to cut down on my ring conflicts. Instead, it was worse now than before. Running 2 rings simultaneously with Masters classes and my dogs in different heights, I missed so many walkthroughs (took them late) and had to run out of order so many times that people were beginning to talk. Or maybe that was just the voices in my head.
- Wear sunscreen! Wear sunscreen! Wear sunscreen!
- On Saturday, in 26" Standard, only 2 dogs of 22 ran clean and Tika was the faster of the two, for a first place; only her third Masters 1st (all of them this year) out of 245 lifetime Masters runs.
- Boost earned her first Masters Q on that same Standard course, her first time in Masters Standard.
- Out of 10 runs per dog this weekend, Tika got only 3 Qs and Boost only 1. This is two weekends in a row that Tika's been quite a bit below her 50% average. My only Q all day sunday was Tika's Jumpers run and only because the scribe didn't record (or judge didn't call) a knocked bar.
- Agility trials are hard places to watch what you eat. Muffins (high calories, if you've never checked) available in the morning. "Score table goodies" for workers all weekend--I tried to restrain myself but had one red vine, half a dozen peanut M&Ms, two Reese's peanut butter cups, and a couple handfuls of roasted nuts. Friends had a burrito feed Saturday night, which wasn't too bad because we could make our own, but there were also hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, yummy Trader Joe's ginger snaps, and a chocolate cake that couldn't be beat.
- On a typical agility weekend, my pedometer tells me I cover a tremendous amount of ground. Just under 10 miles each day this weekend. Doubt that it made up for all those desserts!
- Bars, bars, bars. Tika missed a Q in Snooker by only one bar (#5 in the closing), a Q in Saturday's Jumpers by 2 bars, a Q in Steeplechase by 1 bar, a Q in Grand Prix by 2 bars (knocked 3(!) total), and that mysterious vanishing bar fault in Sunday's Jumpers. Boost missed a Q in Steeplechase by a bar (although we had other problems also, she'd still have Qed without the bar), she missed a Pairs leg by a bar (although also had other problems...ditto), a Grand Prix by 1 bar (knocking 2 total), and Sunday's Jumpers by 3(!) bars.
- Tika's contacts: Missed 5 points in Saturday's Gambler's opening by popping the A-frame, dropping her from 4th to 7th place out of 23 dogs. She got called on the A-frame in Sunday's Standard. She barely got toenails in it most of the weekend.
- Supersize me? On the way home this evening, I decided that I needed caffeine and something more substantial than an energy bar and fruit. Stopped at (speaking of watching one's eats) Carl's Jr. Wanted something more than a minuscule Coke, so ordered medium. Decided I was in the mood for fries, not teeny weeny, so ordered medium. I almost never do fast-food sodas or fries, so my eyes bulged when I saw what mediums have grown into. Today's medium soda, a few years back would've been a super-size. Medium fries had more potatoes than Idaho! (Of course I had to eat them all, anyway, because they were there. And tasty. And I was very hungry. I'm guessing 400 calories just for that.) (Nope, just checked their web site: 460! Argh.)
- Boost's weaves: They've been SO fixed...for just a fraction over 2 weeks only??! First run of the weekend, Gambler's, she did the first set of weaves perfectly, then popped out early on the second set. A warning I didn't heed (not that I could've done anything differently). They were lovely in Standard, Snooker, Steeplechase, Sunday's relay, Sunday's Grand Prix... and then in Sunday's Gamblers, she popped out early 5 times in a row despite various attempts on my part to get her to realize the error of her ways, including the 5th time when we walked off the course. That didn't seem to do it, either; in Standard, she popped out early again. Curses!
- On the other hand, her Saturday Jumpers run was almost perfect. I got a chance to walk it only twice (once to check the lay of the land and once more to start a handling strategy), so, near the end, I looked away from her to see where I needed to be, and she pulled around a jump for a runout. But no bars, no refusals! That felt pretty good.
- Sunday's Gamble was send over a jump to a tunnel, then go parallel to the gamble line over a teeter and a jump. Easy peasy and lots of dogs got it. For some reason I can't explain, Tika turned back to look at me right before going into the tunnel--for a refusal, negating the gamble-- and then did the whole thing beautifully, and had more opening points than the first-place dog. Crap. It was exactly the same scenario that kept us from a perfect weekend (and probably high in trial) at the CPE nationals last year. So I must be doing something, just not sure what.
- Boost's start line stay remained perfect all weekend. She left maybe 3 contacts before getting the "break" command, but at least she ran fast to 2on-2off and stopped each time. Unlike certain Tika animal's.
- Driving home into the west at twilight is a favorite time. Orange glow of the sunset fading over the dark silhouettes of rolling hills, the sky a velvety royal blue, the (usually annoying) lights and signs of civilization turned into magical illuminations against the hills' black background. Ahhhh--(sigh of contentment).
Friday, October 05, 2007
SUMMARY: First week's Boot Camp report; Boost does good.
Boost's status first--Boost is doing so well in class! We're making mistakes, but really not out of line for the kinds of mistakes that the other, more-experienced dogs and handlers are making. Her weaves remain good. Her contacts remain good. We had class last night, and this morning I got a nice note from our instructor congratulating me on her great improvement over the last month. Sure, I've been working on things, but it really does seem that it's more like something clicked in her collie brain and she's finally put together all those 2 years of training into something that works for us.
She'll be in all Masters classes this weekend, and I'm eager to see how she does. Plus another chance at a Steeplechase and Grand Prix.
I had Boot Camp for an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and this morning. Wednesday night in class with Tika wasn't too bad although my muscles were a bit tired. Thursday I was quite sore all day and really flagged in Boost's class in the evening. Today I was still sore before class (most everyone else was, too). But I managed to jog 2 full laps around the field (1/5 mile each lap) before needing to walk a bit, which is better than Monday and Wednesday.
Today was "Testing Day". First, you ran/walked a mile as best you could and recorded the time. I walked about 3 half laps of the 5 laps and finished in 11:44. Out of 7 people, I had the third slowest time; times ranged from about 9:50 to 14-something. Drillmaster (my title for him) says that the goal is to improve our one-mile time by at least a minute before the last day of class, which is only another 3 weeks.
Second, we did as many pushups, in whatever mode, in our own time, as we could without completely stopping. I knew that this would be hard for me--I did 7 on my knees, not my toes, and I had the fewest in the class. The rest ranged from 9 to 35! (Against the top of a picnic table, later, I did 2 sets of 15, which is better than barely managing two sets of 12--with a struggle--on Monday.)
When I continued to the rest of the day's exercises, I discovered that my right hamstring was very painful and I actually couldn't do some of the exercises with that side. That's the same side as my crappy knee and the same side on which the thigh muscles need improvement. I'm guessing that, if the thigh muscles were stronger and taking more of the load, the hamstring would've held up better, too.
I'm icing and ibuprofening and I'm hoping that it's not going to hinder me in sprinting with my dogs on course this weekend. Everyone else gets the weekend off!
My classmates all seem nice. There's at least one gal in college, and at least one 49-year-old, because they were comparing notes on wednesday about what they each thought they should be able to do based on what the other could achieve. There's another lady who came to Boot Camp with a friend several sessions ago, signed up for herself, and has kept with it; she's now doing two sessions simultaneously! She says that she had never done any kind of exercising, ever; she had never heard the terms "crunch" or "lunge", had never run laps... what's this country coming to? ;-) One lady is obviously more overweight than the rest of us, but I don't seem to be tremendously more fit than she is. Harrumph.
The drillmaster is good; keeps giving us instructions on how to hold ourselves, what to move, what we should be feeling in our various muscles. A good mix of good-natured "keep moving--I didn't say you could stop yet!" and "don't hurt yourself, this isn't about pain!"
Thursday, October 04, 2007
SUMMARY: Ignore those emails
I've received a dozen or more emails in the last couple of days like this:
Alza Corporation, a Johnson & Johnson Company is closing their Mountain View facility. The animal test facility has 40, 16 month old beagle puppies that DESPERATELY need good loving homes. These dogs were NEVER tested. If you know of anyone, a rescue or are interested in helping give these puppies homes, please contact Rick Bible at ... The facility manager will have to put them to sleep if no homes are found by OCTOBER 15TH!!!
I've also received email saying that the humane society of santa clara county has dealt with them; that they have all gone to beagle rescue; and that they have all been adopted out. The most reliable info I can find is a press release on Alza's web site that basically says this is a bunch of nonsense.
I mention this here because it's apparently also being posted all over the country.
Monday, October 01, 2007
SUMMARY: First day of boot camp for me. Working on Tika's drive, bars, future contact work.
So much to do, so little time. We've got a USDAA trial this weekend, a week off, another USDAA trial, another weekend off, then that following Monday or Tuesday heading for Scottsdale.
Boost's not competing at Scottsdale, so it's just the usual stuff. She's doing some fabulous weave entries in the yard now. So she WAS learning all that stuff, she just now got around to deciding to apply it!
With Tika, I need to focus on:
* Tika's drive to the end of the contacts, particularly the dogwalk and teeter
* Bar-knocking drills
Tika tends to blast fast through most of the dogwalk and then saunter to the end--or, as she's just started doing, leaping off before the contact. So I just keep rolling around to contact-drive work, revving her up, slapping the contact, driving her with my body, too, and not rewarding crappy slow sauntering ones. We never got our second Steeplechase qualifier--sigh--so it's just Grand Prix and Team.
I've been working on the ground in getting her and Boost to run through my PVC frame that's the size of the dogwalk contact and going to a target further ahead, so they get clicked for getting front feet into the box and the reward goes at the target. Tika's still mostly jogging through it, although I think she's picking up speed; Boost blasts into the box but in her short life we've done so much targeting work and stopping on the contacts that she wants to stop in the box. But, when she does get out again, she drives to the target.
That's in prep for working on Tika's up contact, which I just really don't think I want to deal with before Nationals. And I have a fantasy about retraining contacts to be running contacts, which I REALLY REALLY don't want to even think about before Nationals.
But I'm reserving the rest of November, all of December, and part of January to muck with contacts. Only one CPE trial over Thanksgiving weekend, and I had the guts to NOT sign Tika up for Standard so I could avoid putting her on the dogwalk while I'm (in theory) retraining.
For me--today was the first day of boot camp. As expected, my arms are my real weak link. They are SO tired, I don't even want to be at the computer. But here I am. With lots of Real Work to do, too. Jogged most of the laps we did; walked the rest as soon as I started to feel it in my knee. Knee held up pretty good, actually. Next session--Wednesday morning.