Saturday, June 19, 2004

Bombed at CPE Nationals

Welllllll after we had such a lovely weekend the 5th and 6th, we totally bombed at the CPE Nationals last weekend. The dogs were mostly running nicely but through a combination of flubs, each dog qualified in only 3 out of 9 runs. And we managed only one first the whole time.

All of my Wed. night classmates who do CPE managed to *win* their height/level groups from a combined score over 3 Standard runs for the weekend. It's humiliating to be the only one in our class who didn't win and who wouldn't run in the final (optional) round. One classmate chose not to run her dog because the final run was a fast, Steeplechase-like run in the inside arena that had to be about 100 degrees.

They did award 2nd-place Standard winners for each height/level group, too, and Jake managed to take 2nd--pretty much for showing up, since there was ONLY one other dog in his height/level category. Sigh.

The horrible blow-by-blow weekend:

There were about 250 dogs entered for the weekend. We've had some very good weekends at CPE trials, my dogs are running well, I feel relaxed and confident. I would love to earn High In Trial, but I'm pretty sure that'll require earning either all Qs or maybe just one nonQ for the weekend.

FRIDAY
Full House
This is a point-accumulation game. Jumps are 1 point, tunnels and tires are 3, and there are 3 designated obstacles worth 5 points--in this case, a 6-pole weave and two double jumps. Usually the 5-pointers are harder to do or harder to get to. You can take each obstacle twice for points. You must get at least three 1s, two 3s, and one 5.
Tika excels because she is so fast and so responsive. We are seldom beaten by anyone on points in this game at any height or level. I pick a nice smooth course with a zillion points and my main concern is whether I'll run out of obstacles before time is up. I put her in a sit-stay and lead out confidently to the far side of the course, turn around--and she is standing up PAST the start line, so the clock has already started. She hasn't done this in many runs over several trials. In a regular trial, I'd probably have taken her off the start line and put her away. But it's the first run of a 3-day weekend and what counts this weekend are Qualifying scores to go for overall high in trial. So I let her run. We've hardly started, flowing beautifully, no knocked bars, when the whistle blows. I checked with the timer afterwards; she wasted at least 7 out of our available 30 seconds, standing there over the start line. We do indeed earn enough to qualify, but barely enough to be noticed. 3rd out of 6 dogs. No blue ribbon.

Jake runs a fairly nice, smooth but not fast course for a decent number of points, but 3 points less than the fastest dog, so a Q and a 2nd.

Wildcard
This is essentially a short standard course, but at 3 points in the course you must choose one of 2 obstacles, one harder and one easier. We must take *exactly* 2 of the harder and one of the easier. This particular course is a challenging course with lots of options for the dog and tricky changes of sides and such.
Tika handles it beautifully, no bars down, does exactly what I ask of her, gets through all of the difficult parts--and then on the last obstacle I don't call hard enough and she takes the wrong last jump. So we have to circle around to complete the correct one to avoid major faults. Despite being way out of place and having to come back in and take another obstacle, she's less than 4 seconds slower than the dog who took first. She's still good for a third out of 10 dogs, but at her level the offcourse prevents a Q.


Jake is good through most of it but we have a couple of close calls where he does that mysterious turn-in-a-different-direction thing and I just barely managed to call him away from the wrong obstacle twice. But he's slowing way down each time. We manage to be the only one of 3 dogs in our class with a clean run, so we do manage a Q and a 1st. I'm feeling somewhat good about Jake--2 Qs for 2 runs. But we're struggling with his deafness or whatever ails him and he's slowing down as the day goes on.

On the other hand, I'm extremely depressed about Tika's runs.

Colors
This consists of 3 somewhat intertwined courses of 8 obstacles each, each numbered 1 thru 8 in different-colored cones (hence "colors"). You pick one course to run.
Tika Qs in only about half of these, because they prohibit knocked bars and she does have a tendency to knock them. But she's been much better at the last couple of trials and so far today hasn't knocked any. I try a challenging lead-out pivot (yes, she stays at the start line), but when I release her, she runs *past* the second jump. So I have to run back towards the beginning, circle her around to avoid a backjump (which would be an offcourse); she comes with me nicely but--knocks the bar as she finally goes over it. At this point, I'm also on the wrong side for the rest of the course. We get through the rest of it with several spins and bobbles, but no other faults. Still, it's NOT that hard for most dogs to Q in Colors, and indeed we're the only ones who don't in a class of 5 dogs.

I run a different course with Jake (I used the course with the dogwalk for Tika because I liked the flow better for a long-strided, fast dog; I used the course with the Aframe for Jake because he often gets a fly-of on the dogwalk). Jake takes off from the start line at only a slow run. We get through the first couple of turns but then he again does that turn-away-from-me bit and I yell yell yell to get him to come back. He looks hard at the wrong obstacle but finally STOPS, turns, and kind of trots back to me. We get back on course and now he's barely trotting. This is the speed he uses when we go out for a walk in the morning! This is not agility speed! We're almost to the last obstacle and we merely have to go in a straight line to the final jump--and again he veers off at a right angle towards the wrong jump. I'm standing there, calling, calling; he slows gradually, almost to a stop, then resumes that miserably slow trot in the right direction. We are, in fact, completely clean. But the course time is NOT that generous when you have only 8 obstacles! Indeed, when the results come up, he is one blankety second over time. No Q. But someone must have done worse than we did, because he's 3rd of 4 dogs.

And that was my first day. One Q with Tika, no blue ribbons. We are probably out of the running, unless things go very badly for everyone else, but we can still get 6 out of 6 for the next 2 days and maybe, just maybe... Jake has a slightly better chance, since he has 2 Qs, but I don't know why he's slowed down so much, and missing a Q by a second is damned depressing. Is he not feeling well? No, half an hour later he's playing frisbee like a madman. Is it something I'm doing? I've been warming him up before his runs with tricks and treats. But I *know* he runs faster if I can get him to play tug of war beforehand. It's just that that takes SO much more work on my part, and then I'm tired when I get into the ring.

Thank the gods Tika is self-propelled. I don't know whether she'd be faster if I played tug before we went in. She couldn't be much faster! I'm more concerned with her about keeping her focused on me before we go into the ring.

All of my friends have all Qs for the day. Or maybe one or 2 of them (we have 25 Bay Teamers there plus of course lots of other people I know fairly well) have missed a Q. But there are Qs and blue ribbons all around me. I am not happy with my day.

SATURDAY

It's going to be a hot day. Warm already when we get up. First run of the day is--

Snooker
This game is also a point-accumulation game, with 2 parts: In the opening, you must take a red 1-pointer followed by a higher-point obstacle, then a different red followed by a higher-pt obstacle (could be the same one), then another different red and another higher-pt obstacle. In the closing, you do the obstacles numbered 2 thru 7 in the correct order. With this kind of set-up, the highest points that you can earn are 51 (1-7-1-7 in the opening and 2-3-4-5-6-7 in the closing). But it depends on where the 7-pointer is located how easy it is to get higher points in the opening.
On this particular course, the 7 is a sequence of 2 jumps and a 6-pole weave pole. The 6 is a combination of a jump and a tunnel. This is going to be a very tricky one, because the jump that's part of 6 is *also* one of the red jumps. So you could do that jump twice followed by the tunnel, which would give you a red and the #6. But you have to remember whehter you were using the jump as a red or as part of #6! The judge also says that if you knock the jump in the opening, it will count as 0 points for the #6 in the closing. Could be an issue with Tika, but ya gotta go for it.

Jake is never fast in competition in the weaves, and he was so slow yesterday. So I don't really want to try #7 in the opening for fear we won't have time to get through the whole thing. But I see almost everyone walking the course with three #6 in the opening because it's fast and flows fairly well. So I decide to start with one #7 and then go into two #6s. I walk several different combinations of all 6s or two 6s and a 7, finally pick a flow that I like, and walk it over and over because the tricky thing with that multipurpose jump. I get him revved up beforehand by playing tug. I have to really work at it, but he looks excited. Sure enough, he blasts away from the startline, whips through #7, and we're on our way to what I know will be a great snooker run. He's very responsive, running quite well, looking at me instead of turning away and looking at other obstacles. We blast through #6 and I suddenly panice, thinking I've already taken the red that we're heading for, so I swerve and take a different red on the way back to our second #6. Jake responds perfectly and happily and quickly--and the judge blows the whistle. Sure enough, I should have taken the red that I was originally aiming for, because I used one of the other reds twice in my sudden panic. Jeez, I've been doing this game for years and I always try to run it as a NUMBERED course (that is, I don't have options on the course--I pick the course, I learn it, I run it that way so I DON'T have to think on course).

So Jake was running beautifully but we were whistled off without even enough points to qualify. And because I stopped and looked baffled when the judge whistled, he called me over to tell me what we did wrong. And as a result I forgot to get to the finish before petting my dog. So we got a no-time and couldn't even get a placement ribbon (even if we'd have had enough points to place).

With Tika, who does lovely weaves and is always fast, I picked a nice flowing opening with two 7s and one 6. She stayed at the start line as I led out. She didn't knock the first red--which is good because then I would've had to try to get to another red instead of the #7 and I'd have never made it on that course. BUT then she knocked the first bar of #7, so I knew we wouldn't get credit for that occurrence. But normally in snooker you can fault an obstacle only once--in other words, if you knock the bar the first time, you don't get credit for that, but you do get credit for it the rest of the time.

She was flying and SO responsive and hit her weave pole entries perfectly. We swooped around for our 2nd #7--and the judge called 0 points a second time! It dawns on me that when the judge was talking about knocked bars, he was talking about ANY bars on ANY obstacle not counting EVER after you've knocked it. Now I know I'm doomed because there's no way I can get enough points to qualify, because I also won't get credit for the #7 in the closing. Tika runs beautifully, knocks no other bars, has no bobbles, gets all the way through the course many seconds faster than the next best dog. But indeed we fail to qualify. I'm in tears--again-- Even if I had realized that I wouldn't have gotten credit for the 2nd 7 in the opening, I would never have been able to make up another course on the fly that took her into, say, #6 instead of back into the #7 I walked. And she ran SO nicely.

Standard
A numbered course of between 14 (minimum at lower levels) and 22 (max at higher levels) obstacles, including all of the contacts, jumps, tunnels, chutes, double jumps, and so on.
Now it's time for the first Standard run of the weekend. Even if we can't get overall high in trial, we could get high in the 3 standard runs and earn an award there. The course is challenging but not as challenging as many we've run and succeeded at.

Again I warm up Jake with tug of war. Again he's pretty darned fast. He even gets his dogwalk contact. But the final stretch has a challenging right-angle entrance to the Aframe that is complicated by the tunnel underneath the Aframe facing the dog. Jake gets a little bit ahead of me, moving very fast, and doesn't react at all to my attempts to call him in my direction and takes the tunnel for an offcourse and there goes our Q.

Tika lies down at the start line after I have led out, so there is nothing I can do about it. Not too happy, because from there she often knocks the first bar. I release her--and she knocks the first bar. This would still be a qualifying run, although only half a Q. She runs it beautifully, including a lovely smooth handling of the threading around the obstacles where Jake went off course. We zoom towards the finish line, just 2 straight jumps, no offcourses possible, and I let up and drop my arm and say "good girl" or some such as she takes the last jump--and she knocks the bar.

Now we don't qualify at all. It was a hard enough course that Tika still places 2nd of 4 dogs. But I wanted the Qs.

Standard Round 2--Another chance at standard, although by now we're probably completely out of the running for any awards.

Again I warm up Jake with tug. Again he's super fast and happy. No bobbles. Challenging course but he handles wonderfully--until in the homestrech, where he has to push away from me to go up the Aframe and avoid going into the tunnel underneath (dang tunnel-under-the-aframe thing this weekend)--and he just isn't PUSHing and sure enough I run out of room and have to veer away and he goes into the tunnel. There goes our Q. But I still want to complete the course correctly. So I call him back, push him out towads the Aframe (he used to have a LOVELY "out") and at the last moment he veers into the tunnel. Repeat a third time. Dagnabbit. At least he looks happy and he's still running at speed.

Tika has a beautiful, nearly flawless run, but then for some reason turns back to me before the last jump (she used to do this often but not in a long time) and when she finally spins to take the jump, she knocks the bar. Half a Q for a 2nd out of 4 dogs, but that's not going to be good enough to save us.

Reno the Corgi, one of our friends with 6 Qs after the first day and the eventual winner of the Standard Final championship

I'm just about ready to pack everything up and go home. One half Q for the whole day. What a sucky weekend. This is quite below our overall average and WAY below our CPE average (Jake's is nearly 70% Qs). Can you say bummed? I know I'm supposed to be having fun, but I *so* believed that we could have been a contender, and we are doing SO badly, and my friends are doing SO well. Even the little dog who isn't built for running and also has a flat pushed in face so finds it hard to breathe has decided that THIS is HIS weekend and is hauling his butt and already has 3 Qs for the weekend! And they earned their Qs and really deserved them, too Most of my friends have 6 for each of their dogs. Not everyone, but all of my Wed classmates anyway. Or maybe they've missed 1. But I just suck. Self-flaggellation continues unabated.

SUNDAY

I am slightly more cheery today. Now I know that I am so far out of the running that it doesn't matter. In fact, I am almost too relaxed. As in, who gives a f**** if we Q, we are so f***** this weekend and f**** it anyway. I am probably not pleasant to be around.

Gamblers
A point-accumulation game with 2 parts. In the first part, you just take as many obstacles as you can to earn points. The trick is to be in a good running position when the whistle blows for the 2nd part, the "gamble", where you have to manage your dog over 4 or 5 obstacles up to 20 feet away from you without crossing the gamble line taped on the ground.
This one is a tough but doable gamble. There are 2 tunnels in U shapes facing each other with a jump in the middle. There is a table back behind the line of those 3 obstacles, between one tunnel and a jump. Dog goes into near side of the first tunnel, so he's coming out the FAR side of that tunnel, over the jump, then into the FAR side of the 2nd tunnel. This is tough because coming out of the first tunnel he's facing the NEAR side of the 2nd tunnel and he's running full speed. So you need to be way out ahead of him as he's going over the jump so you can turn and PUSH him with a good "OUT" command into the far side of the tunnel. Then when he comes out of the near side of the tunnel, you have to get him to turn directly away from you and go out to the table. Both of my dogs are capable of this if *I* handle it correctly.

Tika is first. I've picked an aggressive opening with lots of points. We just get started, and she lawn-darts her Aframe contact! (That is, takes off from up high and lands straight down on the groudn without ever getting her feet in the contact zone.) She hasn't missed a contact in maybe 8 months! We are both surprised, I think. It's not a fault in gamblers, but we do miss 5 points, and I don't want her doing it again, so we do sort of a standing-time-out (I go nowhere, she goes nowhere, which she hates). We go back and do the Aframe again and it's perfect.

But we've lost some time and some points, so I'm going to have to adjust the rest of my opening to make up for the time so I'm in the right place for the gamble. I try to send her *out* to another high-point obstacle instead of running with her, and she goes *around* it! And then she's growfing at me for being unclear and I have trouble turning her to try to get her to try it again, and we're bobbling around in the corenr between a jump and the beginning of the gamble, getting NO points, and the whistle blows. I manage somehow to give her a signal such that she goes OVER the gamble tunnel. That's still not a fault, and I somehow get her into the tunnel, but I'm in a very bad position and furthermore I hesitate as I start to run and look back over my shoulder to be sure she's---ZOOOM! She goes right past me and into the wrong end of the other tunnel, despite my feeble attempts at "OUT"--I'm just not in the right position.

Jake has a lovely opening. Usually he gets quite a few fewer points than Tika because she's so fast and has such good contacts. But he gets his contacts, and alhtough his turns are very wide, I don't actually lose him anywhere on the course and we are in absolutely the most perfect position you could imagine when the whistle blows and he goes into the tunnel and I run like heck and I am in the exact perfect spot and I turn towards him as he heads for the jump and I give a big "OUT!" and a very strong body, arm, and leg signal and I HOLD it so the pressure stays on and he starts to veer towards the var end of the tunnel--and then at the last mmoment turns back and takes the wrong end. Sigh. Maybe if I had REAPEATED the "OUT!" and pushed AGAIN, but sometimes that backfires...

In fact, Jake ends u with *8*!! more points than Tika in the opening.

No Qs again.

We're getting down to the end of the weekend and I feel that I have nothing to show for it. The placement ribbons are lovely huge rosettes, but I don't really care much because they're not coming with the Qs, which are what count.

Jumpers
A very fast numbered course consisting only of jumps of various kinds and tunnels.
But now it's time for Jumpers, which Jake almost always Qs if I can keep him on course these days, and Tika abosolutely LOVES and flies around the course although she does have a history of knocked bars--still, 5 out of her last 6 jumpers runs have been clean. And if she's clean, nobody beats her. It's a very fast course with essentially figure 8s made up of tunnels and jumps, but you have to do some serious call-offs as the dog is flying and there's one nifty 180-degree turn after a 3-obstacle straight run.

We get a chance to watch dozens of dogs on the course ahead of us. A lot of the fast dogs are crashing and burning, but a few are hanging in there. Most of the slower dogs, with times of 30 seconds or more, are doing fine. Tika won't have that kind of time, guaranteed. One dog finished the course clean in something under 23 seconds. A couple of very fast, smooth border collies are at 24 something seconds. We're wondering whether anyone can break 20 seconds on that course.

Sooooooo Tika stays at the start line until released and starts flying. At that danged 180, I call TOO early and call her off the last straight obstacle, and she responds PERFECTLY but I have to spin her around and get her to go out over that jump. That kind of maneuver is usually about 3 seconds. We get back on target and she is FLYING. I almost hardly have to move from the center of the course and she reponds BEAUTIFULLY. But then the last 2 jumps are a sharp 90-degree turn, and--cautious from the last call-off, I call too LATE and she knocks the next-to-last bar. Sighhhh...

She ends up with a course time of 23.52 even WITH that spin-around-missed-obstacle, and at her level she can still Q with a knocked bar, but it also drops her to a mere 2nd place out of about 5 dogs.

Again I warm up Jake with tug. This is working very well. Not only is he faster, but he seems to pay more attention to *me* instead of to obstacles. But, halfway through the course, he *crashes* a jump. Someone said afterwards that it's as if he didnt' see it until the last moment (it was a turn after a tunnel with me between him and it). He slowed down a lot, and I thought he might have hurt himself, but he picked up speed again and finished beautifully.

See, in Jake's ENTIRE agility career, he has knocked a bar in jumpers maybe 5 times, ever. EVER. So WHY at the d***ed NATIONALS is when he knocks a bar? Because, at his level, that is NOT a Q.

Standard Round 3
Taking us to our final Standard run of the weekend. I really feel kind of sick. I really feel humilated. My friends are still racking up the Qs. Most have now missed one Q for the weekend, but still... I just want to pack up and go home. But there's always that quest for MAYBE I'll Q THIS round.

It was another challenging course. Jake was happy and fast and, although he somehow fell off the side of the teeter when it hit the ground instead of running off the front end, he bounced right back up and rann ran ran and YAY we had a clean fast run for a Q. A couple of very wide turns, but no real struggles for control or veers away from me. Still, we were 3 seconds slower than that darned Max, who is also about 6 years younger than Jake. So again it was only a 2nd.

Tika was slowing down, of all things. It was pretty hot and the end of a long weekend. (But we did 18 runs each dog Memorial Weekend over 3 days, so this was nuthin'.) But still she ran beautifully, got all her contacts, kept all her bars up--and then, just before the last sequence of jumps to the finish, I forgot to cross in front of the weaves to handle a turn/turn over the last jumps--don't know why, I WALKED it correctly and I did it right with JAKE, but NOOOO I couldn't do it right with her--and so when I did a cross to make up for it, it was in the wrong place, pulld Tika past the next-to-last jump, and when I stopped, she was in such a position and angle that she backjumped the jump. Arghhhhh--!! There went my final possibility for a Q for the weekend.


Argh I immediately started packing up. I just wanted to get out of there. I couldn't stand the thought of watching everyone I knew in the final round and getting their awards and not being part of it. What a rotten attitude, huh? But of course I wasn't done packing before they started the final round, so I thought I'd just watch a couple, and then the people I knew ran SO nicely and they were SO much fun to watch, and I just stayed for a couple more... And by the time the final round was done, they were ready to hand out awards, so I went to sit and watch my friends get all of their trophies.

I hadn't realized that they were handing out trophies for 2nd place over the 3 standard runs--so I was quite surprised (in cynical and depressed sort of way) when they called our name to receive our trophy! I have been pointing out that there were only 2 16" championship-level dogs running standard, but I guess we do have to take credit for earning our way up to C level. Stilll... it's even less than anticlimactic.

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