Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 4 at Haute TRACS

SUMMARY: Sunday

I'm sleeping great! I'm feeling great! If it weren't for the dang blisters, on BOTH feet now--doh!

Tika is looking great! Boost is eager to go! Although by the end of the day, when she comes out of her crate, she's clearly getting tired. Wouldn't tell it on course, though, what a fast little girlie!

Morning and evening, every day, we get in some frisbee fetch (although with Tika it's more like frisbee chase/pounce and with Boost it's auto-frisbee-return after Tika's done with it).

The weather continues to be outstanding. After rain early in the week, and rain predicted for early the following week, we are so lucky to have four days in the middle that are perfectly luscious. No mud, no awful winds (and this site is known for its awful winds--one of the few places where winged jumps have to be staked regularly, but not this time).

So, Tika had a perfect day yesterday! The odds are slim that we can repeat it. We almost never have perfect days in USDAA, let alone two in one weekend. But we'll try!

Steeplechase Round 2

We start the day early today with Round 2 of Steeplechase. Because we won Round 1, we're top seed in our height, so run last--and our height is last, too, so I have to wait through all the other dogs to see whether we can win it. I'm nervous for the first time this weekend. WHY?!? Really, it matters to nothing whatsoever except glory and the chance for a little pocket change.   It is helped by the fact that two of my worthy agility friends have scratched their runs, for who knows why.  (Tough competition around here! If you look at the 22" names here and then look at the USDAA Top Ten candidate lists, you'll find probably ALL of those names there. Sheesh. Keeps us honest, though. Never can slack off!)


Having learned from years of experience, I decline to watch the other 22" dogs and go dink around with Tika for a few minutes while they run.  BOTH round 1 yesterday and round 2 today have two Aframes. Of mixed minds on that: In the old days, used to love having two weaves because so many fast dogs would hose their weaves and Tika always got them. But Tika has 3-second weaves and the fastest dogs now are in the 2-second range (like Boost) AND have good weaves. So we can be faster on two Aframes because --ahem--she doesn't actually HAVE Aframe contacts any more ("modified running contacts"), but if she DOES get them, they're pretty fast because she's not waiting.

So we step out to the line, I lead out just beyond the first jump (I'm going to pull her to the Aframe and then race to get ahead of her on the down contact), release her--and she knocks the first dang bar! So I know that we're now out of it, so I push it to the max to try to maybe get a placement on time, but in this crowd it's tough to make up a 5-point fault with 5 whole seconds faster speed. And it's a glorious run, I must say, on a fun, fast course!

A little while later, I take a peek at the score table--and we've won! Wow, turns out *everyone* had faults on the course. What are the odds? So I gladly take my whole $21 (pays for Steeplechase entry this time).


Gamblers

I think I have a pretty darned good plan for the opening--again--and the gamble is SO doable for both dogs! I will be embarrassed if we don't get this one! I mean, we live and die by doing turn-aways ("left" or "right") from a contact to a tunnel! Well, sure, we haven't practiced any ina while, but we have done SO many of them, I am 100% confident that both dogs will do it perfectly.

Also, we have an advantage in the opening. Many people are avoiding the 7-point Aframe to avoid the risk of going into the tunnel after the aframe and voiding their gamble, but we also do back-to-back Aframes ALL. THE. TIME. I see no risk for us at all.

So my plan is: jump-teeter-jump-jump-aframe-aframe-weaves [and another weaves for Boost]-jump-jump-tunnel (left side), circle and do left side of tunnel again if whistle hasn't blown.

So, Tika: MAN she is hot! Spot on perfect! The whistle blows as we're swinging around to do that last tunnel again, and she blasts through the gamble like on remote control. What a girl! I'd like to see anyone beat THAT!

Well--hrm--someone DID beat us, on time, not points, 1.5 seconds faster. So, for example, if we had been exiting the tunnel when the whistle blew, that's the only way we'd have made up that 1.5 seconds. Ah, well, 2nd is still good!

Boost. Heh. In the opening, on the 2nd Aframe, she PULLS PAST IT instead of taking it! Who'd have thought?! Thank the agility gods she did NOT go into the tunnel; I swung her around and made another approach and she took it, but that meant no second set of weave poles for us, meaning 5 fewer points.

In the closing, perfect over the jump to the Aframe, holds the Aframe and looks at me, and I say "LEFT thru!" and--she goes FORWARD! And she's bouncing around, looking at me, looking for a tunnel, left, right, back, forth, and FINALLY sees the tunnel and goes in. Then she's over the last jump without knocking it and we're under time! Yesss! I don't think that she actually ever approached the tunnel for a refusal (which would've negated the gamble), but I'm not positive until I look at the score table and see that we have, indeed, Qed!

It's apparently not a give-away but not completely trivial, either; 17 of 48 dogs got the Q in Boost's height and only 2 of 8 in Tika's height.

Jumpers

Can Boost get another Jumpers Q? Can Tika continue to keep her bars up and hold her start line stay?

The answers are: NO (but very close--crashed one bar and I forgot the course, sigh, but up to that point just lovely), YES, YES, and another 1st and Q for Tika.

A friend called it the easiest jumpers course in the universe, and it really was--smooth and uncomplicated (no good excuse for me leaving out jump #15) -- and I'd have expected Boost to maybe Q it, but ah well.

Standard


Tika: I'll admit that it's a stretch for me to try to figure out a pattern for myself on Standard courses to be there to ensure that Tika gets the down contacts on the dogwalk and the aframe. Sometimes it seems like an impossible task. I miss being able to just trust her and head off for my next turn or send her ahead of me. The dogwalk, especially--she can cover 36 feet much faster than I can. But, yep, if I don't fix the problem, I have to accommodate it.

The joy on this course is that (a) I can get a lead-out on the dogwalk to beat her to the end, and (b) even if I'm not there and she soars off, the next obvious obstacle is not in fact an off course. The HARD part on this course is the jumps box in the upper right! There are about 10 ways to handle that sequence, none of them easy. I plan on a ton of front crosses because I'm not sure that I do rear crosses all that well even in the best of times, and this one has no leeway for mistakes because it's so tight.

Plan is front cross 13-14, push the dog out to get the 15 and front cross 15-16, follow the dog through, pull, and front cross 16 to 17.

Well, so, Tika runs it and there is NO way I'm getting the first front cross in, she's so fast off the teeter, and once that's done, I can't catch up on the others and end up doing weird rear crosses all the way through. (I did walk it with various combos of fronts & rears, just to be sure.) Felt like I was living on the edge; tika turned the wrong way after 16 but I was able to get her back on track, and wow! we finished clean.

A friend came by to say wow, I handled that box so smoothly and effortlessly, I made it look like a piece of cake! (Sometimes the accidents turn out to be good ones, I guess.)

So--a Q and a 2nd place from time lost on a couple of wide/wrong turns. But I'll take it!

Boost. Well. I *assumed* that she would take the #3 jump after the dogwalk because it was RIGHT IN FRONT of her, but noo, ran past it. I thought that was our only fault and the rest of it looked really good! I was surprised to find 10 faults on the score sheet, not 5. Dunno what it was. But it was generally a nice run. And only 7 of 42 dogs in her height Qed on that course, so it was a toughie.

Snooker

One more chance for Tika to earn a zillion (well--5--) top ten points by winning!

This is a clever and evil little course. Only 3 reds, and #7 is just jumps, which you'd think would be fast and everyone would be trying for three sevens in the opening. Problem is that it's a lot of yardage and not easy to get to the reds from the #7. I timed it out a few different ways and decided that there was no way on this green earth that I could do 3 7s and the closing in 47 seconds (49 for Tika).

BUT! I was pretty sure I could do 7-6-6 with boost (love those fast weaves, and her weaves have generally been excellent lately), and 7-5-6 with Tika.

Plan: #1 on the right side, across the 7, push out past #5 and send the dog to the #1 on the left side; for Tika, have her on my left side over #5, keep her on my right as I go between the 4 & 2 & send her to the middle #1, then pull her on my right side as I stick close to #4 and enter the weaves on the right side. Then send her to the #2 tunnel from the back side--piece of cake to do--and the closing is then trivial. Says here.

So--Tika is lovely thru 1-7-1-6-1, and then it looks like she's going for a tunnel and much jumping around and barking ensues, but I manage to get her to the correct end of the weaves without mishap and, voila, the rest is as predicted trivial, although I'm doing it pushing her hard hard hard because of that wasted time, and sure enough the buzzer goes off after we've completed the #7 but are still on our way to the finish line. This is fine! Now it's just a question of whether others will try for 7-6-6 instead of our 7-5-6 and beat us on points.

I know that Brenn tried it, but too many time-wasted bobbles and didn't get all the way through, and Hobbes, too, I believe, but they had a problem somewhere. So we won with 48 points, next nearest at 45!

Boost was absolutely spot on in the opening, I was so proud! But when I sent her from the back side to #2, she started to go in, side stepped to look back at me, then went in--for a refusal and negating the rest of the run. And it was dumb because I could *easily* have run with her to the #2 and handled it from the other side. Just another case of where she's just not doing the obstacles with confidence, or something! Anyway, it was a beautiful start and we had a ton of time left so could've easily finished the closing.

It's funny looking at the results--only 4 dogs out of 100 all heights/masters & performance got 50 points on that course, then Tika with 48, one 47, one 46, a couple 45s, but most 42 and fewer! One of the more challenging snooker courses I've seen in a while, and it looks SO simple.


Pairs Relay

Really, this was going to be a short post. But it is, after all, MY diary so I write what *I* want to and you just have to ignore it if you want to. Neener neener.

Tika: Paired with Brenn again. Brenn led off and ran clean and nicely; Tika rocketed through that course so fast I hardly even realized I'd been out on the field! And without popping her contact or knocking a bar! Our combined time was good for 3rd place out of 11 teams, and of course a Q.

Boost: Paired with a nice, young, fast Border Collie, who led off and did a super job, not a wrong step the whole way, and very fast! Boost was very fast, too, except knocked a bar and then ran PAST A JUMP RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER again, for an additional 5 faults and wasted time. So can two fast border collies Q with 10 faults (=10 seconds) AND another 5 or so seconds of wasted time?

Apparently they can, because they could! --Er, with a total time plus faults of 49.10 and a standard course time of 50. So "just barely" would be the operating phrase here. (Fun note--another team actually managed to place lower than us and Q, with 49.66 time! REALLY squeaked in!)

End of the day and the weekend

So!
Tika another 100% Q day, with a bonus Steeplechase 1st place on our 6th run! She just amazed me all weekend.

Boost actually got 2 Qs today; glad it's today, as it makes me feel a little better about her weekend in time to go home.

I say goodbye to our set-up (note certain Merle Girls peering from behind the left side of the crates), pack up in daylight and head home. I love spring!

I've been wanting to do this for a while but haven't had the time or it was under darkness, but this time was fading late afternoon sun and a perfect time to visit the Vista Point overlooking the Ghost Ships-- the west coast Mothball Fleet.



At one time, I believe there were a few hundred ships of various sizes and shapes, but the last time that any of them were used was in the Viet Nam war era, and even then, not many of them. Now, they are all essentially rusting hulks of hazardous waste (many tons of leaded paint already flaked into the bay waters, petroleum products, etc.) and the word has come down that most will finally be scrapped as quickly as money allows. The process is already underway. Sometime in the next few years, the mothball fleets that have been a fixture in three American locations for all of my life and most of my parents' will be no more.

The view would've been better from up the side of a steep hill, but my blisters were so painful that the thought of taking any extra steps was beyond me at this point.

If you're unfamiliar with them, these are primarily world war II-era ships, held in reserve for times of need. They've been used to support military efforts on occasion; to support the Berlin airlift; and to store some of the nation's emergency supplies of grain. Now, they're fascinating to look at but are so old, obsolete, and decayed, that they're not of much use to anyone any more. Until recently, they'd been painted above the waterline for many years so that they don't look like rusting-out hulks, but they are, in fact, rusting out hulks.

They're all lined up in neat little groups just off the north shore of Suisun  ("suh-soon") Bay (between San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River Delta) like patient  students in their designated lines waiting to come in off the playground after recess. Time to come in from the cold and the wet, their era now long gone. (Click the photo for a somewhat larger version; click here for a really large version--you might have to click your magnifying cursor once it's displayed to get it to its full size.)

Two hundred years from now, I'm sure we'll all think, jeez, all those historic boats that could've been saved! Ah, well, can't keep everything.

3 comments:

  1. Oooooh, super cool ghost ships. I love finds like that. Thanks for sharing those photos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Congratulations on a great weekend--er, partial week, of agility. I don't know how you do it, I get tried at 2 day trials and three day trials really fry my brain. But sounds like you had a great time and the girsl did great.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What's funny is that, yeah, I was tired after the 4 days, but an expected tired. The following weekend, after 2 days, I was so wiped out I could barely drag myself to bed.

    ReplyDelete