a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Team Saturday and Sunday

Monday, June 26, 2006

Team Saturday and Sunday

SUMMARY: An emotional rollercoast. I really REALLY want this Q, and it takes SO much effort and money to get one, and opportunities are SO limited--

Team was a real emotional rollercoaster.

Scoring is interesting:
*For Jumpers, Standard, and Relay, each dog starts with a certain number of points--100 points per dog in Jumpers, 130 in Standard, 150 in Relay. You subtract points for how much time you use and how many faults you have. If you E (offcourse), you lose all your points.
*For Snooker and Gamblers, they multiply your earned points by some factor to make the top dogs roughly equivalent to 100-150 points.
*Your standing is determining by adding all your team's points. At least the top 50% of the teams (plus however many are within 75% of the 3 top teams) qualify for the nationals.
*Example: You all run very fast and clean in Standard, each taking about 35 seconds. That's a total of 285 for Standard--390 (130 each starting points) minus 105 (35 seconds each).
*Another example: The gamblers factor is 1.5, one of your dogs earns 62 points (so that's 93 with the factor), one of your dogs misses the gamble but still earns 40 points in the opening (so that's 60) and one of your dogs is really slow, gets only 20 points in the opening, and misses the gamble, that's 30 points, for a total of 183 for your team.

So it's all about NOT Eing in Standard, Jumpers, and Relay, and about NOT crapping out entirely in Gamblers and Snooker (where it's possible to earn a 0-point run--have done it!).

Our team (Brenn, Tika, Skeeter) was sort of desperate. We've already tried twice to Q--Skeeter did it with another team, so they're good for nationals, but Brenn and I haven't had the best of luck, and this is just about our last chance to try. (One more try in September but that's the last minute and otherwise I think there's one or two chances in southern Cal, but who wants to drive that far?) And then Skeeter started throwing up Friday night. Argh.

But Skeeter was looking better and eating on Saturday morning, so she didn't have to be scratched from the trial. Still, she's not a fast dog--although reliable, which is nice--and it was HOT HOT HOT so who knows how she'd run.

An experiment--surround the crates with the X-pen and let the dogs decide whether to lie on the cool grass or in their crates. They seemed very confused by the whole thing and ended up resting in their crates most of the weekend, coming out into the open area only when I was there.


Jumpers was the first Team event on Saturday, and we all held our breaths as each of us ran our dogs--Skeeter was really slow but clean (41.69 seconds). Tika was really fast (29.92 seconds), knocked a bar (5 faults), but stayed on course. And Brenn was fast and clean (31.07 seconds). Wahoo! Plenty of other dogs had faults or in fact had offcourses, and we were excited to see that we were in 5th place overall, of 29 teams. Since at least 15 would qualify, that gave us a very good starting position.


Next up was Gamblers. The gamble looked tricky at first, but then it appeared that if you could line your dog up straight at the gamble, they'd go in a straight line across 2 jumps and into a tunnel and the rest was a gimmee. Plus you could either stay outside the line and get a 20-point gamble or just run the dog in and get 10 points for the gamble. I decided that I knew exactly how to line Tika up and would try for staying outside the line, and if she hesitated, I'd run in and push her into the tunnel.

So first Brenn ran. They couldn't get any of their contacts in the opening, so earned only 28 opening points, but lined up in the same line I was planning for Tika and did the 20-point gamble perfectly, for a total of 48 points. Then Skeeter ran--not fast, again, but Mary picked a nice smooth flowing course for her that earned 28 opening points but did only the 10-point gamble, for a total of 38--(huh, interesting, they scored them as having 48 points? They must've given credit for a 20-point gamble, or else I wrote it down wrong...)

Anyway, Tika's opening was flawless and although the whistle blew as we were exiting our last tunnel so we didn't get 3 points for that, we had 37 opening points and were perfectly lined up for the gamble and she didn't hesitate at all, ran fast as light across the first two jumps and then veered slightly right, completely avoiding the tunnel and over the wrong jump, and I never had a chance to get in and try to push her into the tunnel, so we got NO points for the gamble and I was really upset with myself for--well, I don't know what for, because I'm not entirely sure what I could've done differently. About 20 things are possible, but without my videocamera (waiting for the repair shop to call & tell me it's ready), I'll never know.

However, turns out there were a lot of really fast dogs with between 35 and 40 opening points who *also* didn't get the gamble, so it didn't hurt us as badly as it might have.

Interestingly, our team's scores were good enough to place us 12th in the Gamblers class--still respectable, and it merely dropped us one place, to 6th overall when combined with Jumpers! Ah, the joys of cumulative scores.


The Team Standard class was worth 130 points each. So it was all about NOT ELIMINATING! Which does put pressure on you in some ways, but also it means that (a)it's OK to be slow, (b) it's OK to knock bars (5 points each), (c) it's OK to earn refusals (2 points each), (c) it's OK to pop contacts (5 points each)--not that you'd TRY to do it, but you can relax even if you do it because it's not going to kill you like an offcourse and losing 130 points right off.

Once again, we watched each other with bated breath. Brenn, as usual, was fast, but also as in the gamble missed a down contact, for a total score of 42.78; Tika was 2 seconds faster than Brenn and CLEAN! Yay! No bars! for a score of 35.74, and Skeeter was SLOW SLOW SLOW and it was REALLY HOT for a clean run but a time of 47.40. Still--that's a whole lot better than the 130 that you'd lose if you were offcourse.

And, indeed, tons of people were going off course on that course. Wahoo! We ended up the day in 3rd place of 29 teams--a healthy, healthy place to be, but we couldn't afford to get cocky: we were only about 100 points above the 15th-place team, so we could easily plummet to within non-Qing range with just one of us hosing our remaining 6 total runs, and we'd be history with 2 hosed runs.

Sunset over the agility field
The canopy-tent. A comfy place to spend the night

Saturday Evening

A nice potluck and conversation. Watched the sun set (late! 8:30ish this time of year) and chatted cheerfully with friends. In 3rd place in team AND qualified for Round 2 of Steeplechase. I was feelin' pretty good--but headachy AGAIN with all the heat for the day. Wondering whether I had brought enough drinks.

Both nights, I simply surrounded my canopy with shade fabric, borrowed a friend's xpen and, combined with mine, surrounded the inside aread to keep the dogs in, laid out my sleeping gear inside with the dogs, and slept there. I think it was much cooler, much more comfortable, and much less work than sleeping in the van would've been.

Snooker on Sunday

None of us did great in Snooker but none of us totally bombed. Tika knocked a red bar in the opening and got away from me after #6 in the closing, so we ended up with only 34 points out of a most-likely-maximum of 51, which *should've* been doable. Skeeter started out just walking but then broke into a reasonably fast trot; did a much lower-pointn opening but, nice consistent team that they are, got all the way through the closing for 35 points. And Brenn did the same course as ours, got through the opening, but knocked a bar on #4 in the closing, which ended her run, so they had only 25 points. Still--there were a notable number of dogs with 10 or fewer points, so once again, it wasn't stellar (we were 17th overall in Snooker out of 29 teams) but we're consistently NOT BAD enough that it dropped us from 3rd to 5th overall after the 4 individual events.

Nothing left but the Relay. Only 10 obstacles each, but 150 points lost for a single offcourse. And there was one spot on the course--a difficult turn in the opening sequence to then avoid a challenging tunnel-Aframe discrimination test. Yikes. But I was pretty sure Tika could handle it, and then although I had to be careful in a couple of places on the course, ONCE AGAIN I thought we could handle it easily.

Although we knew that at least 15 teams would Q, there was less than 150 points between us and the 15th-place team, so we knew that if we had just one E in the relay (at a cost of 150 pts) and everyone else ran clean, we'd be history.

Tika ran 3rd. Brenn had a scary moment on the Aframe-tunnel thing, but then did it fine--had a bobble on something that cost a 2-ponit refusal and was scary for another moment-- and then finished the course nicely. Then skeeter was clean but not fast, and then Tika and I got through the aframe without blinking and then--4 obstacles from the end--not sure what I did but she went offcourse. ArghhhhhhhH!!!!!!! We were the 3rd team to run, and the ones before us hadn't gone off course, and the next couple after us didn't go off course, and I was ready to crawl into a hole and pull it in after myself for the next 3 months, because I just didn't hear that many people Eing as time went by--although they were running in the far field and I was tearing down our setup so it would've been hard to hear the judge's short, light whistle toots.

One partner asked me, "one E couldn't drop us more than 10 places, could it?" and I said that it all depended on who else Eed. If every other team ran clean, yes it certainly could drop us more than 10 places. All we could do was wait, but I was convinced there was no way we were going to Q, once again leaving us hanging until the next opportunity for Team. That's the bad thing about qualifying based on percentages--you're HOPING for other people to fail, which I don't like at all. I'd much rather enjoy seeing some really nice runs. And I was SO angry with myself.

Then Gwen, whose x-pen I had borrowed overnight, came by looking dejected, too, because although her dog Savannah & partner Annie had run brilliantly all weekend, their third partner had Eed in *everything*, including the relay, so they knew there was no way they'd Q with *three* Es (I presume jmpers, std, and relay, not sure about snooker or gamblers, although I think they said she didn't get the gamble, either).

Then they posted the results.

Turns out that all except 8 of 29 teams Eed at least one of their team members, including a lot of the top teams. And with the percentage caluclation, actually 18 teams Qed. Much to my surprise and great relief, our stupid off course dropped our team to only 11th, so we were easily in--and savannah and annie's team managed to still place 18th and Q for the Nationals! WHich goes to show you how REALLY brilliantly savannah and annie ran.

I had already decided to blow off GP--I have a billion GP Qs and I'd been fighting a headache off repeatedly since Friday night (poor head doesn't handle heat well--I try hats, no hats, drink cold fluids, put cold wet cloths on my neck, anything, but bleahhhh--in fact I feel pretty crappy right now but I'm stalling going to bed so I don't end up waking up at 4 in the morning). AND I was going to have to wait for ALL the other teams to finish, and 26" ran LAST in GP.

Our haul for the weekend: Boring Snooker Q with 4th place, Team qualifying patch, check from Steeplechase for 3rd place.
Turns out, even as I pushed the packing up, what with getting lunch and celebrating with Carlene & Mary & everything, as I was leaving the driveway, they were running the 1st 26" dog, so I could've walked the course & run it & it probably would've delayed me less than an hour, but I was so glad to be on the road and so glad to be home and SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad to have finally Qed in team! So:

- That's our last need for 2006 nationals (already had steeplechase & 2 Grand Prix)
- That was our Tournament Master title--at last! Woooo hoooo!
- Dare I say it--now we need only one more team Q and that'll be our Tournament Bronze! Bay Team Labor Day, here we come...

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