When the alarm shrieked into my ear at 4 am on Sat. morning the first thing running through my brain was a long string of bad bad words. The next thing was the thought that there is NOTHING worth waking up this early for. The fog finally cleared a bit and I got everybody up and loaded into the car by 4:30 for the 2 hour trip down to Fountain, a small town outside of Colorado Springs. This is the first USDAA trial of the 2007 qualifying season and the first year that both dogs are in all masters classes and thus eligible for top ten and lifetime achievement points. It's too much for me to start thinking about qualifying for next year's nationals when I haven't even been to this year's yet, don't know if I'll enjoy it and don't know when/where next year's will be so I was fairly relaxed about the Grand Prix and Speed Jumping tournament events. I was so wound up about the Grand Prix last year because I wanted to qualify for Regionals so badly that it felt good to have no pressure on me for once.
I'm not a morning person at all, my temperament is a mixture of foggy confusion and hostility. Driving is not my favorite activity either and once I get to the trial site it's all I can do to get the EZ Up up and the crap unloaded and set up so when a perky morning person type hopped out of her Beemer all shiny, happy, cheerful with actual questions for me it was all I could do not to bite her head off. This was her first USDAA trial so I did want to be nice to her but once I'd politely (I hope) answered the one and only question I knew the answer to I was not at all in the mood for chitchat. Pleeze lady, for the love of dog, I'll chat all you want, even explain Snooker to you, just let me wake the hell up first. Oh and did I mention that I don't have any caffeine during trials because it winds me up too much? Yes, this is another thing that does not help with my morning surliness.
Once the fog cleared, everything was set up and the dogs had done their business I was starting to feel good about the day. This would be perfect practice for USDAA Nationals just 4 weeks away. The judge in the masters ring is going to be a judge at Nationals and the weather (sunny, 80's) is very close to what I'm likely to see in Scottsdale. I'm hoping things will go well so that I have some confidence going into Nationals.
Long story short, things did not go quite so well. The courses were tight and trappy with lots of weird, depressed angles on the jumps and both dogs were going way slow likely in part because of the heat. Lola managed only one Q from the whole weekend in Master Jumpers and it felt like she was running so slowly. Her first run of the trial in Gamblers wasn't bad, it was first thing in the morning and not too hot but she didn't do the gamble and it wasn't that hard. She ran clean in one of her standard runs but was over 3 seconds over course time partly because she refused to lie down on the table and stood there barking at me in argument. I finally got her to lie down but it took too long and we lost the Q to time faults. Her Grand Prix run was going well until I got lost and led her right off course. Doh. Cody fared a bit better, picking up Q's in Gamblers, Snooker and Jumpers. He had a lovely standard run with just a refusal that was my fault and would have had his first Super Q in Snooker if he hadn't missed his weave pole entrance on the last obstacle. Doh. Both dogs had a terrible time of it in the weave poles of the Speed Jumping course, Lola in particular completely lost her rhythm and was fighting her way through, it looked awful. I was flummoxed by this until tonight when I spoke to someone else who'd been at the trial and she told me the poles were spaced at 17" apart which is just barely legal and way way tight for the big dogs. Her large dog had a big problem with them too. She also said the courses were so tight and trappy that they were very demotivating and that could have gone a long ways toward slowing Lola down so much. I feel a lot better tonight after talking to her (she had only one Q as well and she's really good with a pretty good Q rate normally).
Up until tonight I'd had my confidence for Nationals rattled a bit from the weekend, esp. after how well NADAC Champs. had gone, but now I'm starting to feel better about things. USDAA is a world apart from NADAC and hopefully the courses at Nationals will be a little more reasonable. I'm going to focus on short sequences to build speed and motivation in the next few weeks.
One good thing from the weekend-not a single sign of stress from either dog except for Cody on his first run of the trial and that was likely because I rushed him into the ring when I didn't realize my turn had come up. He had some start line stress and launched off the A-frame & dogwalk but that was it for the whole trial. Both dogs were very steady and focused all weekend. If we can keep that part and add some speed back in we should have a blast at Nationals.
I've got a bunch of video to post but I'm pressed for time so it will have to wait.
Oh one other good thing to report, I swam 3150 yards at masters last night, the farthest I've swum in years. It wasn't pretty but I did it. This was on top of a 2 mile walk in the a.m. and a 1 1/4 mile walk at lunch. I've still got a sharp, isolated pain below my bad knee that's been there for about a month now so I strongly suspect a stress fracture. It feels only slightly better than it did a month ago. I'm going to continue not to run (except agility) at least until Nationals are over in November and if it's still bothering me I'll go to the doc. Swimming, biking and walking will have to do for now. Not sure if the strength training exercises will hurt it so I'm going to lay off of them for now (like I was doing them anyway).