SUMMARY: Not enthused, and results seem to show it.
This is my more detailed report on last weekend, mostly for my own purposes.
Last weekend, I woke up grumpy Saturday morning to the alarm. Usually I just accept the fact that it's another agility weekend and that's why I'm disturbing a perfectly lovely slumber to go traipsing across the countryside, but this time it just pissed me off. Why am I doing this to myself? I hate getting up in the middle of the night and staying on my feet all day and doing the same thing I've now done for (officially) 181 competition weekends, not to mention the camps and seminars and fun matches and classes.
I stayed grumpy all morning, especially after getting to the site and discovering that there was no room for me to set up near the score table I was scheduled to work all day, and at a 3-ring trial with dogs in 2 levels, that was important. I'm afraid I whined when a Person In Charge told me that I was trying to set up in a restricted area, but at least then he found me (and half a dozen other workers who showed up after me) a prime spot in the middle of the site. But I still felt badly about whining instead of expressing my dismay with good humor.
Then I just didn't feel like putting the effort into my runs. Every time I'd get a dog out, I'd think, "Why bother?" Maybe that's my confused middle-aged hormones acting out, or maybe I really am just burning myself out on agility. But then I think--When would I see all my agility friends? What would I do with my dogs? How would I keep my weight down?
Anyway, i did get enthused about a couple of runs on Sunday, finally, with some good-natured mutual ribbing among classmates. But my knee was also bothering me a bit, and whereas usually the adrenaline just kicks in and it doesn't matter, I wasn't excited enough for that to happen, so I started several runs in a half-limpy-trotty pace. I'm sure my Quasimodo imitation inspired the onlookers.
And Saturday really turned out to be a blah day. Boost Qed in two of 5 runs (although not, as I noted earlier, the ones I particularly wanted), and Tika in only 1 of 5. And that one was iffy.
The first two obstacles of Masters Standard were tire straight to the dogwalk. I led out a long way and started running along the dogwalk as I released her, and she somehow caught the tire and pulled the whole thing down on top of herself. She came over to me all abject, and it took me a few moments to realize that whatever she was feeling, it was emotional rather than physical. But, at that point, she had come all the way past the beginning of the dogwalk, so when I verbally revved her up and pulled her back around to get onto the dogwalk, I saw the judge's hand go up in a runout fault. So I ran the whole run thinking that we hadn't Qed, so I used it as a sort of calm training run, not going for the win or speed, and the rest was lovely.
After I came off the course, someone came over to tell me that the judge had removed the fault because the tire should have been nailed down and hadn't been. So it was a Q that, between the time wasted with the tire at the beginning and then not pushing it, was barely under time.
On Sunday, after staying until 7:30 for the last runs Saturday and not getting home until almost 9 p.m., I felt so tired and blase that I was inches away from leaving midday before Snooker and Jumpers rather than face another 7:00 end time, and just going home and relaxing. Maybe sleeping. Maybe puttering in the garden. But nooooo, there I was all day. And it ended up somewhat better; Tika Qed 4 of 5; Boost another 2 of 5.
Sunday's Snooker course discouraged me. The 7 was the weaves, and there were only 3 reds on the course, and my timing told me that I had plenty of time to do three sevens in the opening, which meant that all the other super dogs (looking over the top-10 list, several of them are there right now) also had time to do it. It wasn't completely straight forward--a dog with good weave entries like Tika's had an advantage over unreliable entries or entries that you had to manage, but still, it was shaping up to be a speed course and we can't win at speed courses. Tika was near the end, and before I went in, I saw that 1 dog had already earned 51 points and a whole bunch had just gone for 50. So, for us to get a Super-Q, I had to go for the 51.
We bobbled one of the three weave entries in the opening--the hardest one--but not by much, and I was revved by then and so Tika feeds off that. I thought that bobble would cost us too much time, but we finished all the way to the end and the buzzer never sounded. Woo hoo! And it turns out that we were the fastest of the 51s to that point--but the last dog who ran did 51 and faster. So we got our Super-Q and a second place of 21 dogs, so I felt good.
And it almost made up for Saturday's Snooker, where she blind crossed me on the first jump, putting me on her wrong side, so then she had to lunge and bark and snarf at my feet while I tried to get her turned around; then after the first set of weaves I was still on the wrong side and when I tried to push through her path, we ended up with a whole major dance of lunging and snarfing, and by the time we knocked the #2 bar at the beginning of the closing, we were already almost out of time. Sheesh.
But then, for a weirdly blase end to the weekend, we had our Jumpers run around 6:30. With everything else wrapped up, a bunch of us stood around and plotted strategy while watching the 22" dogs run it, then walked it together to pick our final methods. Tika had a smooth, although not spectacular, run, although right near the end she knocked a bar and then didn't like a front cross that I did and stopped for a moment to snarf at me about it for a refusal. So it wasn't a Q, but all in all, a decent run.
Imagine my surprise to see in the results that we had almost 4 seconds of time faults, and our time was listed as almost twice that of the fastest dog. Now, I know that a snarf wastes time, but not THAT much. The time they gave us had her at 3.78 yards per second. Now (because I have my database) I know that the slowest she's ever run a Masters Jumpers course is 4.6 yards per second with TWO runouts (running past a jump and having to bring her back around). It matters only to me, because I like to know how we're doing in general, but all I can think is that the scribe misheard the timer's call. And it was electronic timing, so there was no start line for her to go over early or finish line to not cross. Weird.
Anyway, I've given up on Steeplechase Qing for her for Nationals. We've tried 6 times and failed 5 of them for one reason or another, and I don't want to go chasing it for another 3 weekends because we just don't have the ground speed against today's competition to make it to the finals at Scottsdale. We just don't. Two and three years ago I thought we had a chance, but not no more. So I'm bailing out of the VAST trial in 2 weeks.
I mean, she ran nicely this weekend in Round 1, but knocked TWO bars--which is probably just as well, because her speed was a full 3 seconds slower than the first place dog (and that's *with* a running Aframe), so knocking even merely ONE bar would have had us .04 seconds over time to qualify anyway, which would really have plunged me into a funk.
And she knocked a lot of bars this weekend. We haven't been practicing our bar-knocking drills. So much to do!
We *had* been practicing gambles this week, to the far side of a U-shaped tunnel. Saturday's gamble involved getting out the the far side of a U-shaped tunnel, and I thought we had it made, but the situation was just too complex and I couldn't get her lined up as nicely as it required. So no gamble.
And I did TWO stupid things in my pairs run, resulting in a collision and then, two obstacles later, an offcourse, and I felt like a dweeb. I didn't run it the way I walked it and if only I had-- You know how that goes.
I also unofficially announced that Tika just plain has running contacts in competition and I'm not going to fight it any more, since we need the time and since she hasn't been called for a down contact on Aframe or dogwalk in ages. So, the first thing she does in gamblers is pop the dogwalk contact. So I guess I have to convince *her* that she still has 2on-2off (because it tricks her into thinking that she's tricking me by slowing down a little bit and then blasting off at the last moment--but that's enough to get her into the yellow zone).
And on to Boost. Her weaves are getting there but still unreliable. Her propensity for refusing jumps is getting there but still unreliable. And she's knocking bars, too. So we have quite a lovely arsenal for finding ways to avoid Qing.
In Saturday's Standard, she kept all her bars up, had NO jump refusals anywhere on course, handled smoothly and beautifully--but ran past the entry to the weaves. When I brought her back around and put her in, she flew out at #10 and over the next obstacle before I could react, for an offcourse.
The Steeplechase was much the same. No offcourses, no jump refusals (and there were plenty of opportunities that I had worried about), but ran past the weaves once and I had to bring her back, then popped out at #10 and I made her calm down and come back and do the last 2 poles. On the way back around, she nailed them! But we were over time.
In her Jumpers run, there were no weaves, and she again avoided refusals (what fun, getting to actually RUN with her ALL the way through a course for a change!), but knocked a bar.
In her Pairs run, she nailed the weaves like she'd been doing them all her life, but ran past 3 jumps (one of them twice) and knocked 2 bars.
In her Grand Prix, she nailed the weaves at full speed and kept her bars up, but had refusals at 3 jumps AND the Aframe.
In her Sunday Standard, she again did the weaves like a pro--BUT knocked 2 bars, ran past a jump, AND went off course. I'd almost rather have offcourses than the others, because I know that those are handling issues and can be fixed with better planning.
In her Saturday Snooker, she knocked a bar on #6 in the opening but got through the closing for a Q; in Sunday's Snooker, I planned two 7s and a 6 but she changed that to one 7 and two 6s, although I managed to recover and we maade it all the way through, DESPITE missing (I think) two weave entries and having to come back around for them--that made us 14 seconds slower than the fastest dog on the same course.
She also got both Gambles this weekends, although the openings were messy. On Saturday, we bobbled a back-to-back dogwalk--I need to practice those a bit more (have practiced plenty of b2b A-frames, weaves, and tunnels)--and a b2b weave. Also popped out of the weaves early once and had to put her back in. So we wasted a ton of time, but managed to get plenty of opening points. On Sunday, it took us three attempts to get her into the weaves in the opening, but she did then stick them through to the end, it's just that once again we wasted a lot of time. (And I was doing weaves deliberately in all of these classes exactly to practice in a competition setting, so that's OK intellectually--just, emotionally, I want to do better!)
So it was a weird mixed bag. So much to work on. (Where have we heard THAT before?)