Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Are We Ready Yet?

SUMMARY: Conditioning hikes...wellllll... plus Tika's butt and agility training...wellll...and about that camera.

I am swamped this week. THREE projects for work simultaneously. I can handle it, really I can--

But no energy to call the insurance company and ask to rescind my claim. NEXT week maybe.

Camera: It occurred to me that I must be able to RENT one of the cameras that I'm thinking of buying. Looked online, sho nuff, lots of places. So I reserved a camera (plus battery plus memory card--extra fees of course) and hopefully can pick it up Friday before heading for Yosemite. I have a borrowed lens that'll fit--18 to 200mm, which isn't quite as nice as a 300, but I didn't want the additional rental fee--not surprisingly, most lenses cost more to rent than the camera body.

So what kind of conditioning are we up to this week for the grueling 3000-plus-foot trek up to Glacier Point on Saturday--T minus 3 days and counting? Monday, a mile and a half on the flat with the beasts. Typical brisk walk. Yesterday, a mile and a quarter on the flat with the beasts. Another typical brisk walk. PLUS i went up and down my 3/4 story stairs 25 times! I added that up--that's about 150 feet elevation gain! omG I'm nowhere close to 3000 feet.

This evening planning on joining the sierra club group for a 5 mile, 500 feet brisk hike from Skyline Ridge to Russian Ridge (love those names). Then, to make up the additional 2500 feet of conditioning, I'll come home and climb up and down my stairs 416 times.

Or not.

Tika's anal gland is looking somewhat better. Monday she definitely drooped; yesterday her usual perky over-the-top self returned in full force. We're using hot damp compress plus antibiotic ointment twice a day. It's still bleeding a bit but not nearly as badly. I'm almost out of ointment, crud. Plus I doubt the renter's going to want to do that on Saturday.

And we're a week and a half from the SMART USDAA warm-up for the Western Regionals the following weekend, and what have we been working on? Noooooothing! Plus missed last week's class; it was rescheduled for earlier in the day because of World Team practice, and I couldn't make it. NEXT week I'll get serious again.

I mean, we do do a few drills every day, but just kind of general things: A little contact work, a little weave pole work, a little running and jumping. And now--on to Projects A, S, and P!

Things are looking up. Or, at least, I am.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keep Moving Those Legs

SUMMARY: Dogs might not be climbing Glacier Point, but dangit if I'm moving my butt, they are, too!

We are all ensuring that we're in excellent shape for the 9-mile (14.5 km) round trip, 3000-feet (914 m) elevation gain Glacier Point Trail hike--11 days (11 d) to go! Even if the dogs aren't going, you KNOW that they want to support my effort in every way possible.

Yesterday's conditioning hike: Tried to get to Postal Annex--a mile away--and back again in under half an hour. The mission: Mail my Bay Team USDAA Regional entry, with check. The reasons: (a) Not supposed to leave envelopes with checks in your own personal mailbox (hence to PA). (b) Need to keep putting those daily miles in for GP**. (c) Sister & Bro-in-law coming to take me away for dinner (hence, half hour).

**For you other USDAA-heads: NOT Grand Prix; Glacier Point!

Uphill? Suurrre! The condos near the shopping center have rolling 4-foot lawn berms, at least half a dozen. So we got at least cumulative 48 feet (15m) elevation gain! We rock!

Photos? None! Were you paying attention? Hurrying!

Discovery: With dogs, even jogging across all the streets and not letting them check every newsworthy tree, cannot do it in under half an hour. Hard to believe. I mean, we hustled! Closer to 40 minutes.

Today's conditioning hike: Dogs came with. 1.5-mile circuit around Oakridge Mall because I needed to get my monthly supply of healthy, nutritious Diet Coke at the famed French department store, Target (pron: tar-ZHAY). (One prior such urban hike, with map, here.)

Uphill? You betcha! 77 steps up the parking garage at the Sears end (and back down); 79 steps up the parking garage at the Tarzhay end (and back down). Must be at least 100 feet cumulative elevation gain!

Photos? None! Camera safely ensconced on my desk! Where it can't accidentally be used to, say, take photos!

Discovery: Squirrels who live in holes in perimeter berms make an incredible shriek-ping racket when dangerous canine types come into view.

Tonight it's dinner with other chunks of the family. Tomorrow night the Wed. Night Sierra Club group is off to Pulgas Ridge, which not only allows dogs, but has an actual (smallish) off-leashey hikey area! It's's about a 50-minute drive there. Or should I just hit Santa Teresa Park again on my own, on-leash? (Dogs, I mean.)

Tune in next time for the exciting next episode of TMH, in which we are probably STILL not taking advantage of our 6 weeks off from competition to hone our keen agility knife [note to self: metaphor falls apart here] and instead are doing other undoubtedly worthwhile things.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Exercise and preparation

SUMMARY: How the dogs and I are preparing for our long agility weekend.

Updated July 6 2009: Added course map for yard layout.

Seems to me that Tika tires out faster than she used to. OK, sure, she's 8 and a half now, but it also occurs to me that, since I'm now combining 2 dogs into one class and mostly focusing on Boost, she hardly ever gets a lot of long agility sequences to do. In the yard, we tend to focus on maybe 3 or 4 or 5 obstacles for some particular thing we're focusing on.

I've been getting better again about getting out for a mile-or-more brisk walk with the dogs nearly every day, but that's not the same as running.

It was just wayyy too hot over the weekend to want to do anything--here's my indoor/outdoor temps midafternoon on Saturday; I missed the 105 and 106 showings Sat and Sun!-- but on Monday I set up a sort of course in my little crowded yard that allows us to do 16 or more obstacles over & over to get into shape. Discovered some interesting handling & performance issues with both dogs, so we got to do some actual practice on stuff as well as doing 16-obst courses several times each day.

Here's what one layout looks like, showing the challenges of laying out a big course in my yard. Notice how very tight the spacing is on the path between some of the obstacles. The "tr" circles are tree trunks.

I'll probably do once around today with each dog, plus bar-knocking drills, because we're coming up on a 3-day USDAA trial starting bright and early tomorrow morning. Fortunately the heat has dropped way back, and so last night I got my Wednesday hike in with the Sierra Club for my own physical conditioning (it's still not running, jogging, or wind sprints, but it gets my heart & lungs & legs working for sure).
Hike started at about 2300' above sea level (long drive up from the valley), dropped to below 2000', and peaked at 2572, so we got some good ups and downs.

As is typical on hot summer days, it's hazy looking out across the coastal range.

And as the sun sets, we had this intriguing view of the top of Mount Diablo, 100 miles away, floating disembodied above the (cough cough) haze that hides all the mountains between us and it, with just a bit of gleam of the san francisco bay upper center (you'll want to click to see the larger image on this one for sure).
Parts of the trail that were fire roads, and well-traveled by vehicles and bikes, were incredibly dusty, with that superfine dust with texture finer than talcum powder, so no matter how gently you set down your foot, a puff of dust rose. And we were hiking in a large group. Stayed well back from the people ahead!

OK, so this weekend: Team on Friday. Tika's first Performance team, and we're teaming with our ofttimes partner Brenn (from our one appearance in the finals at Scottsdale). How can these dogs be old enough to be in Performance? Gah. Brenn has arthritis in her feet, Tika in her neck. Me in my knees. Pfooey.

Saturday and Sunday is everything else plus Steeplechase and Grand Prix. You know that I'm getting my expectations set high for Tika in those in Performance--her first two times out, she won 1st round steeplechase (and 2nd round, too, the one time we stayed for it) and came in 2nd in grand prix. I'm going to try not to expect too much, but it's hard to avoid.

Mind you, there's a difference between expectations and goals. My goal is to win. But if I *expect* to do well and don't, I have trouble letting that go.

Tika still needs a Standard and 3 Jumpers at 26" for her ADCH-Silver. We've been practicing the last 2 weeks at 24" and 26", so hopefully she can keep her bars up, although mixed with the 22" classes all day friday and some the other days--dunno. We'll see.

Boost still needs one--just one, dangit!--Jumpers leg for her MAD... funny to see that she also just needs one pairs leg for her Relay Bronze! Of course, that's the only course where knocked bars and refusals don't wipe you out. I won't even go into looking for the ADCH--Snooker Super-Qs and Jumpers legs evade us at every turn.

But the weather should be nice, the friends should be nice, and we'll just see what happens.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Dogs Tonight and Sore Legs

SUMMARY: In which we realize why we shouldn't slack off on the uphill/downhills.

I've been trying to be very good about getting out with the dogs for at least a mile or preferably two every day, like I used to BK (before knee [issues]). It's good exercise; I move at a brisk pace--to the dogs' dismay, because they NEED to minutely examine every shrub, tree, and large weed along the way--and I get my heart rate elevated. But the elevation changes around here are a bit slim: in the two-mile loop down past the high school, I'm thinkin' my elevation change is cumulatively about 5 feet. If I turn right instead of going straight, we can dive under the freeway and actually get in a--what?--30 foot each way? elevation change.

Last night was my first outing with the Sierra Club since it's been light enough to go into the parks with hills (mostly flattish walks during the winter in suburban areas and parks). A brisk 5 miles round trip, up at least 500 feet to the top of Black Mountain above Los Altos Hills. My legs were SO tired by the end of the trip... Lost all that conditioning from last year!

You'd think that, with legs this long, they wouldn't get tired.

We were quite a crew--in addition to my out-of-shapedness, our Fearless Leader damaged her ankle (or achilles tendon?) last year and is still recovering, so she wasn't as brisk as she was last year; the schoolteacher who hikes hundreds of miles in Europe every summer, 20 miles a day, is still recovering from a broken foot this winter and is still in pain although she's up to (she says) about 8 miles she can do in a day. Who knows what the other 16 people were up to, but I am certain it wasn't as brisk a hike all around as we were doing last fall.

View to the northwest from the summit near sunset.

A wonderful friend loaned me her digital Nikon D50 SLR to try out for a while, so I hauled that up to the top with me, took about 6 shots, and then got an "Err" display. We tried all kinds of things but I didn't find the answer in the instruction book until I got home. It's better now.

The air over the valley and bay was too hazy for worthwhile photos.

But it caught the amber light of the setting sun on the view to the southwest, where a deer made a brief appearance on the hill below us, spotted us, and dashed away.

On the drive back down the mountain, a coyote crossed our path and then a deer nearly ran into us. And 10 minutes later we were back at the Interstate with thousands of vehicles streaming by.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Boost Plays to the Max and Tika Has a Lot to Say

SUMMARY: Small dogs come visiting.

On Friday, an irrigation specialist person came here for an hour to discuss my irrigation mess, and he brought his Italian Greyhound, Dante. Dante and Boost couldn't have been happier. Dante chased Boost, and Boost blasted through the various tunnels full speed, then would skid to a halt inside one end, Dante would run over and bark at her, and she'd u-turn and skeedaddle fast as lightning to the other end, Dante would run over and bark. Repeat. Until that tunnel got dull, then there'd be sprinting into other tunnels, behind shrubs, and so on.

Very happy dogs.

(Although Tika is a little suspicious about the whole thing:)

And Boost got well worn out.

Tika, who is funny funny funny, isn't much into playing with other dogs (although she and Boost played the same way when Boost was younger--Tika doing the chasing and barking for the most part--and they still wrestle with each other pretty much every day). But she gets off on the excitement exuding from the other dogs, and she barks BARKS BARKS!!!

For some inane reason or other it never occurred to me to get my camera out.

The next day, a friend and her two French Bulldogs came to visit. Now, the older Frenchie--Elliot--and Boost are about the same age, and they had several opportunities in hotel rooms and when visiting each other when they were between about 6 months and a year and a half to play play play, and they loved it! And they still remember each other. (Dang, thought I had photos posted from wayyy back, but not finding them.)

The problem is that Elliot is recovering from a damaged disc in his spine and wasn't supposed to be playing. Boost tried and tried and tried to get him to play, and he tried and tried to play with her, but his Human Mom kept putting the kibosh on it. So sad! The other, younger Frenchie was delighted to play with Boost, and they did a bit of running but mostly wrestling, although Boost kept going back to Elliot to try to engage him.

Ah, well.
Boost: Elliot, c'monnn, play with me!

Elliot: Boost, c'monnn, play with me!

Boost is so gentle with the tiny dogs. And she gets right down to their level to play, like she's doing here with Babette.

Babette always looks so cheerful AND has a pointed tongue. How cute is that?

OK, really, I'd never have a Frenchie myself, but just look at that face on Elliot!

Meanwhile, Tika had a lot to say about all that excitement, too. MAN, she has a loud bark!

I did finally remember to get my camera out, after they were all pretty tuckered out.

Babette's and Boost's tongues hung wayyyy out. It was a good workout for them both.

Boost got well worn out AGAIN.

Life is good.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Dog Dreams, Boost Balance, and Just Tika

SUMMARY: Where my mind goes at night, and what we're doing during the day.

Last night was a night for dreaming about dogs. I dreamed that we were at a picnic at the beach, sitting at a weathered gray picnic table on a rocky crag (which is what surrounds a lot of beaches here on the west coast). It was very cold; we were wearing winter clothing. And Mom mentioned that she had seen Sam recently.

Well, Sam was our old family dog. She came home with us when I was in 5th grade. I hadn't seen her around in a long time. So I was a little excited. I got up from the picnic table and called "Sam!", and there she came, up from the beach onto the rocks to see what we were up to. And she was kind of old and needed her back rubbed, so I massaged her back and neck really good, and she stood there taking it all in on a gray and almost foggy coastal winter day. And I thought, wow, I regret not having done more of this her whole life.

But then Remington, lying on a blanket in a little cozy indentation where the sand met the craggy rocks, snarled at Sam, and Sam thought better of being there, and trotted away again. And I think I knew that Remington was ill or he wouldn't have been so ill-mannered, but he was happy when I came over to him.

Then, much much later in the night, I'm sure, we were going to set up a barbecue out on a grassy island in the stream. It was very cold; we were wearing our winter clothing. (I'm catching a theme here: winter and picnics and water. Perhaps I was cold and hungry and water? In the middle of the night under my dry and toasty warm down comforter?) This time it was my ex and my mother-in-law.

And I was trying to figure out which shoes to wear to get through the river without getting my feet wet. Decided that my agility shoes wouldn't work, and probably not my hiking boots. And I have these old giant rubber boots that my ex gave me years ago for wearing on wet agility mornings, and they've been sitting out on the porch and when I looked at them last month they're all cracked so probably not waterproof (this isn't in the dream; this is real). So in the dream, I pull them out of the truck and almost wore them, but then decided that since the water was going to be up to my waist that it was pointless, so just waded in.

But as I was wading in, an incompetent frisbee-thrower (and I don't know who that was) somehow ended up losing BOTH of my frisbees from the back of the van into the really rapidly flowing middle of the river, and right downstream there was a sharp drop where the water really rushed through, big whitewater thing, and I started to race down the bank to catch up with them, but then Boost leaped in and was caught in the flow and disappeared downstream much faster than I could get through the thick woods.

So we went downstream, wading the whole way, for miles, looking for Boost, even though my sister kept asking me to look for chrysanthemums for her wedding (apparently they spring up in the river if you look closely enough), and I said I wasn't looking for anything until I found Boost, and I was so scared because she hates being in the water and it was so cold. But finally I found the 2 frisbees sitting on the bank, neatly placed there, and I kept looking around, and sure enough, there was Boost, half curled up, exhausted, in the grass on the riverbank, so beaten that she couldn't even lift her head, but the tip of her tail wagged and I was so glad to find her alive.

I know you wanted to know all that.

So we move on.

The vet/masseuse I mentioned in A Break for Boost and More About Boost OKed listing her name: Cindy DiFranco. She's based in Arizona but gets around a lot in California.

Boost and Tika have been working on their balance and coordination exercises.

Backing up stairs: Boost always wants to start by first putting a front foot up one step and to the side, so that she's going up almost sideways. Although a dog who goes up the stairs sideways might be entertaining, I work each time on getting her to start straight back. This is a long-time thing, and I just haven't worked on it conscientiously until now. Tika does very well going backwards up the stairs and always has.

I pumped more air into my 25" exercise ball so it's much firmer, so the dogs are finding it easier to stand on. Tika seems so huge even on that big ball! At the moment, because she started doing it automatically, she's got her hind feet on the ground and walks forward, rolling the ball under her front feet. She's getting it pretty quickly, although she'll often just let it roll away from her so that she can lean her chest on it so it doesn't move. Pretty clever. But I also get her to stand on it in a stationary position.

Boost once again showed how she watches and learns; when I first had Tika on the ball after our session with Cindy, giving her rewards for it, then bought Boost over, Boost immediately leaped up onto the ball. I have had them on the ball from time to time in the past, but not very much; not enough that I'd expect that from Boost if she hadn't seen Tika getting amply rewarded for it. She wants to sit right away on the ball (I'm supporting it so it doesn't move), which is pretty funny. Since she wanted to go up on top right away, I let her get her balance, reward, and let her off a few times in a row. Then I move the ball backwards just a little (so she has to move her feet forward to keep her balance).

I think she'll get this pretty quickly, although a solid ball or keg or such would be easier than the flexi ball--but the latter is better for balance and using the related muscles.

Different from agility.

I haven't gotten the boxes out in a couple of weeks (progressively smaller boxes for them to stand in). Boost is better at smaller boxes. It is funny because I don't think their body lengths are much different; just Tika is 3" taller. Hmm, will have to measure shoulder to hip to know for sure.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Exercise Them Mini Dawgs

SUMMARY: An interesting invention for smaller dogs.

If your dog is no taller than 14" at the shoulder (Chihuahuas, Pekingese, like that--even most Shelties and Beagles are taller than that), if you can't keep that dog exercised by tossing a tennis ball across the living room, and if you always admired that hamster lifestyle, this is for you.

Now they need one for them big dawgs who can cover the whole living room in a single bound.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Cold and Wet and Buster Cubes

SUMMARY: When it's cold or wet (or both) outside, how to burn off some doggie ergs?

Sunday morning at 9:30, in the back yard, frost and ice still reigned supreme, on grass and ground and forlorn agility tunnels:

The dog's water bowl was not immune, startling thirsty dogs; I enjoyed the beautiful ice patterns:

Hedge trimmings from the previous day took on a delicate new aspect:

Today, it's just plain raining and muddy. Certain human household members don't want to be out in that weather, not to mention recoiling from cleaning dozens of mudded canine tootsies. So how to burn those ergs/joules/calories/enegies/demons? One strategy is Breakfast by Buster Cube.

Tika finds that the nose nudge works well.

The foot fling also comes in handy.

Boost goes for any method that strikes her at the time.

Sometimes it goes under furniture and you just have to make a detour to chase it out of there.

When all else fails--or you're concerned that Tika might encroach on your BusterCubing domain--just pick it up and carry it around. (They're not supposed to be able to do that--are they?) Oh, yeah--and that inside-out ear thang again--

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Tiring Out the Dogs--Ha!

SUMMARY: OK, an 8-mile hike is good for half a day.

For those familiar with Palo Alto and Stanford, here's the route we took Wednesday evening (thanks, Karin, for mapping it and for these photos):

Here we are before the hike.

Agility friend Karey joined us with her three Border Collies.

We of course enjoyed the questions about our dogs, and were entertained both by those who thought that Karey's three dogs must be related because they look so much alike (for Border Collieists--not!) and by those, conversely, who looked at the three of them and Boost and said that the four of them looked so different that it was hard to believe that they were all the same breed.

As for wearing out the dogs--by 2:00 yesterday, my beasts were inquiring why we weren't out doing something active and exciting, and they had no problem at all running full tilt at toys or Evil Squirrels. (Tika caught one earlier this week. Sigh.)

Class started out on a high note, as our instructor (World Team Coach) was just back from Helsinki with multiple golds and some other excellent performances for the USA team. Woo Team USA!

In class, Tika seemed on the slow side, but Boost exulted in being on an agility course for the first time in two weeks, and had some lovely runs. We had lots of rear-cross opportunities last night, though, and we found some of our weak areas. In particular, if I have to bring Boost towards me before making a rear cross, I push her off the jump just about every time.

We worked on that quite a bit, with assistance, and succeeded easily the last time I tried it at the very end of the evening. I just need to set up similar things, as she just might have been patterned on that one set-up by then.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tiring Out the Dogs

SUMMARY: Longggggg walk.

I try to walk a mile or so with the dogs every day. Really the last couple of years it's been more like 3-4 times a week (and sometimes other days without the dogs, like the 5-7 milers Wednesday evenings with the Sierra Club group).

Since I got back from Montreal, the dogs have been pestering pestering PESTERING me for more activity. I walked 2 miles with them Sunday, a mile and a half Monday, none Tuesday. Played and practiced pretty hard for about 15-20 minutes each in the yard daily, with some extra random fetch here and there. But they had a whole week of minimal activity backed up in their systems and I needed to get it out somehow.

Last night, the Wednesday hike wound through the walkways, paths, and streets of Palo Alto and Stanford University, and dogs are legal. So I took the merle girls for the first time. According to my pedometer, we walked just under 8 miles, briskly, over about 2 and a half hours.

I haven't heard a thing from either dog all morning. It's 11:00 already. Not a peep, not a "here's a toy," not a "let's DO something", nothing! SOUNDLY snoozing dogs.

I only hope they can work in class this evening.

Good workout for them. Should do more often.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008


SUMMARY: Being alone is not the same as being lonely.

I'm staying at a hotel (in french: hotel) within the Hilton domain. Sure, the linens are luxurious and the setting is more than comfortable (in french: confortable...see how hard this is?). But what I really have enjoyed in my first 12 hours here is being alone and relaxing in my own room.

I am very fond of my dogs, and they are quite integrated into my life. However, these aren't dogs who go off to some other part of the house to sleep at night. Or who open half an eyelid but then return to snoozing when I get up and start moving around. No, these dogs sleep on my bed, and in my face if I let them. And who leap to their feet, eyes bright, tails a-quiver, whenever I make the slighted twitch that looks like I'll be moving around.

I am never ALONE in my house.

I travel so seldom without the dogs--maybe twice a year or so--but I always share a hotel room with someone. This is so nice!

But today I give up my aloneness to step back out into the world-- I have ambitions to explore miles and miles of Montréal to make up for a day of mostly sitting. (I'd have walked up and down the airport instead of sitting and waiting, if I could have, but I unexpectedly had to check my rolling suitcase, and my computer and camera/purse bag were so heavy that there was no way I could stroll comfortably for any length of time. Ah, well.)

See y'all this evening.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Wednesday Night Workout Hike

SUMMARY: Conditioning for Havasu Falls

Hiked again Wednesday night with the Sierra club. It was a near-sprint up to Black Mountain summit in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve and back--just under 5 miles and about 800-900 feet in elevation change (2000 feet above sea level to 3000 feet, and remember I live at about 50 feet)--from 6:30 to 8:30 Wednesday evening with the Sierra Club group I've been hiking with. Man, those guys move!

I barely got some photos by pausing for a nanosecond and then jogging to catch up. Lots of wildflowers but there was no way I had time to kneel and try to set up for a macro shot.

One member of the group has a service dog. No disability that prevents him from running miles every day and doing these brisk hikes. This means there'll always be a dog along when he's in town. That's kind of cool. A substitute dog and I don't have to take my own along.

My knee is holding up well, although it had very minor kvetches on Thursday, just because it needed to feel appreciated. Sure, this was a more gradual climb and descent than we'll get in the Grand Canyon area. But I think I'm going to do fine. More photos here.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Post-Boot Camp

SUMMARY: Keeping up with some of the exercises.

Well, I'm not doing an hour of intense exercise and stretching 3 days a week as I was in Boot Camp, but I'm trying to keep up some of it. Every other day or so, I do a couple of sets of jumping jacks and of jumping rope, some basic stretching, and run several laps around my yard. Each lap takes about 25-30 seconds, depending on how many dogs I have to dodge, hoses I have to hurdle, and lemon tree hanging fruits knock me on the noggin. But it's all rapid movement of the legs and arms, balance, and aerobic activity.

Plus a very little weight lifting.

I'm still not back to walking a mile daily. It's been a couple of years now, probably, since I've done it daily. Probably only a couple or 3 times a week. Do it, Ellen, do it! Or, as our electronic sign board in the Cal Band used to say, because there weren't enough spaces for the whole phrase "DO IT BAND!", "DOIT ELLEN".


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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nationals Practice

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.

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Boot Camp Wrap-Up

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.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Boot Camp Hiking in Los Gatos

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.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Demo, Bars, Boot Camp Results

SUMMARY: Filling in some updates.

Demo and possible agility site

Saturday'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 weaves

But 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 Camp

I 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 bars

We 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.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Boot Camp versus Dogs

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.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Boot Camp Hike

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.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Boot Camp Progress

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.


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Friday, October 05, 2007

Boot Camp and Boost Can

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!"

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Training Me and the Dogs

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.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Boot Camp

SUMMARY: I've signed up to make myself really sore and tired.

I've been pondering a yoga class for years and never could bring myself to make the time or money for it. Don't know why; it seems like a really good idea. But what I think about, when watching videos of me running with my dogs, is that I look like I don't know how to run. And, when I'm loading my car, I'm thinking what a wimp I've become--my shoulders, arms, back, stomach--none of them work the way they used to.

A comment by one of the instructors at Power Paws Camp this spring got me going. She said that she always felt incompetent when running and handling her body (from a perennial nationals finalist--maybe we all feel that way!) and decided that "this problem, like many others, could be solved by throwing money at it," so she hired the local high school's soccer coach (or the equivalent) to give her lessons. I'd been on the verge of going over to the local high school, now that school has started, and asking for the soccer coach.

See, I did one season of track and field in high school, and the coach worked with us on how to run, how to start, how to move arms, shoulders, everything--but the details have fled my head. I'd love to relearn and to regain some body strength (I ended up doing shot put and discus rather than running).

Then, two weeks ago, an agility blogging online pal from New Jersey posted a message about doing an all-women's boot camp, and about feeling so good as a result. That hit fast and center.

But I had doubts. (1) Started at 5:30 in the morning. STARTED. Ha! Bad enough I have to get up that early for agility. (2) Five days a week. I have meetings in the mornings 1 or 2 days a week, plus with everything else going on, I don't have a lot of time. (3) Even if there was a San Jose-area location, it would probably be a lonnnng way from here, probably north, and I'd have to fight commute traffic, and wouldn't that make me just cheery in the morning? (4) 6-week sessions--I'd have to take a week off for Nationals at the end of the month, and don't want to pay for something I'm not going to use, and so might not be able to sign up until late fall sometime, and how off-putting is that?

So I went to Lo, there's a San Jose location. And someone In The Great Upstairs just knew what I was thinking:
(1) For the first time, they're trying a 9:00 session.
(2) They don't always offer it, but this time they're offering a 3-days-a-week option.
(3) It's only 15 minutes from home, by surface streets or freeway.
(4) Most sessions are 6 weeks, but in October they're doing a 4-week session, which would finish the week before Nationals.

This particular Boot Camp was clearly meant for me and only me! How could I not sign up? So I did. I'm sure it'll be worth the money; less than the entry fees for 2 dogs for one weekend of agility, although I can't afford ongoing sessions.

I'm looking forward to it with both excitement and trepidation. The trepidation part is--my knee sucks. My back sucks. I can't do a single pushup worth beans. My cardiovascular system is a mess. Am I going to be able to do it without hurting myself more?

I met the instructor today. They have alternative exercises if anything aggravates my knee (or back or whatever). He's the right one to be the leader--his energy level matches Tika's! He bounced cheerily all over the place while taking my initial measurements and talking about the program. Funny thing; he has a 6-month old Mastiff, Bacchus, whose front paw is almost bigger than Tika's head! And Bacchus just lay on his side through the whole 20-minute meeting, dog-napping. Wagged his tail lazily and sniffed my fingers without lifting his head when I said hello. What an interesting match in energy levels! Instructor says that all of Bacchus' energy seems to be going into growing, so mostly he just sleeps. But he does attend all the Boot Camp classes.

They want me to have Running Shoes. Not sneakers, not cross trainers; Running Shoes. I think that my shoes are technically cross trainers. But, especially after paying for the Boot Camp, I can't afford another pair of shoes. We'll have to use what I've got.
So--Monday morning, 9:00. Oboy. But they have only 6 (!) signed up for the 9:30 session. Sounds iffy as to whether they'll offer it again. Who are all these people who can get out of bed in the middle of the night, 3 to 5 days a week, and exercise frantically for an hour at 5:30 in the morning??

If you're in the San Jose area, and feel like you want some exercise, sign up for the 9:00 session to encourage them!


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Friday, February 09, 2007

Health Milestones

SUMMARY: Things is lookin' good.

I realized today that, sometime in the last week, I crossed the threshold where I can now stoop or kneel to get at things in low cabinets, without pain, and get back up again (there's been the rub!) without hardly even noticing my knee. This is excellent, and it's been just 2 months and a not quite 2 weeks since my surgery.

The flu thing I think is mostly past, although the cough lingers. Today's the first day all week that I haven't still been very droopy and low-energy and needing to nap or at least lie down and rest for a while. And I think last night was the first night in at least 2 weeks that coughing wasn't an issue during the night. Huzzah!

Now if only I'd keep up on that exercycle work I keep promising I'd do--

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Agility-Related Goals for This Week

SUMMARY: Some realism, some extreme optimism.

  • Today: Walk around the (long) block--about 2/3 miles. Exercycle briskly 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Jump-knocking drills with Tika and Boost. Finish removing plants around lilac in hopes it will be taken away later today--then another 15 feet of usable length in my yard! Woohoo! Go to class with Tika, my cold be danged.
  • Thurs: Walk around the long block. Exercycle 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Go to class with Boost. Go-on drills with Boost. Bar-knocking and snooker practice with Tika.
  • Fri: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. Pack & load car for the weekend (usually takes 1-2 hours). Snooker and bar-knocking drills with Tika. Go-on drills with Boost. Get to bed early.
  • Rise at the crack of 4am, drive 2 hours to Santa Rosa, ice my knee after every run (5 with Tika), earn Tika's ADCH with a Super-Q, don't freeze my buns off. Night at Motel 6.
  • Sun: Ice my knee after every run (5 with Boost), earn Boost's AD with a Standard leg. Don't freeze my buns off. Remember to do stuff with Jake. Drive home, stopping for nap if need be.
  • Mon: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. I dunno, that's 5 days from now!

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