Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Every trial is a learning experience no matter how long you've been doing this and we learned some good lessons this weekend.

For instance just because you're not in masters yet and the trial is less than 20 minutes away and it started on Friday so your crap is already set up doesn't mean you can be all 'La De Da' and sleep in on Saturday and stop at the coffee shop on the way.  Because it's inevitable that you'll get stuck behind the guy that has nothing better to do at 8 am than flirt with the barista.  Also this is not a good time to pull out the foam roller and start with the IT band stretches that you should have been doing on a daily basis for the past 10 years.  Because master jumpers goes faster than you think and there's a good chance you'll arrive half way through your walk through for advanced jumpers.  According to the book I'm reading this is not so good for the Mental Management.  I'm not reading the book for myself because I don't have Mental Management issues except that according to the book I maybe sort of do and didn't realize it.  I liked life better before I had this particular epiphany is all I have to say.  The book is very good at pointing out the mental management issues but not so good with practical ways of solving them.  Telling me that I need to Focus and that Focusing is the most important thing and that I need to Focus in the face of all distractions and stresses is not terribly helpful because DUH.  I think I need to reread the book when I'm not falling asleep at night.  Or maybe stick my head back in the sand and go back to a simpler time when agility was a fun hobby and not so incredibly complicated.  O.k., who am I fooling, I do love the complexity of the challenges of the sport.  I just don't love a book making me feel bad about my focusing abilities when I screw up.  I wonder if I'm the only one who's ever gotten mental management issues from a book that's supposed to help with mental management issues.

There were a lot of other lessons too.  According to the book I'm supposed to write a debriefing of all my runs and examine the good parts and the areas for improvement and think about what my focus was like for all of it and what contributed to the good focus and the bad focus and  how to replicate the good focus next time.  Except that sounds exhausting and everything happens so quickly out there I hardly know what hit me when I get out of the ring and by Tuesday morning it's all kind of a blur.  Maybe we'll just go with a picture of Strummer in the 10" of snow we got over the weekend.

An example of very focused.  On a Wubba that is off camera.  Maybe I should get me a Wubba.

I don't have any video because my camera was having some technical issues.  I finally figured out that it needed the heads cleaned which was no problem but in my experience once these cheapo cameras start needing their heads cleaned they aren't long for the world.  I'll have to start budgeting for one of those cheapo Flip cameras.  They aren't my favorite but I'm starting to see how handy they are compared to the mini DV tapes especially for when I tape my practices.  Uploading 45 minutes of video in real time is a huge pain.

Alright, I guess I'll give the debriefing a try.  I'll put some more stuff at the end of the post but I'll section this part off because I imagine it'll be even more tedious to read than it is to write.


Advanced Gamblers

The Good
First run of the trial and our only Q for the weekend, 1st place.  Gamble was easy peasy, no problems there.  Smooth and fast with no hesitations.  I headed into it from the jump just south of the A-frame.  It wasn't my original plan but it worked.  Kept my cool for the gamble despite a messed up opening and being out of position when the horn blew.  Got 2 A-frame contacts.  No bars down.

Areas for Improvement
Started out Tire-Jump-Weaves and he flew by the weave entry.  Things went a little crazy after weaves, I was rushing and set a bad line to the jumps heading to the chute.  Then I didn't support the chute and he ran right past it.  Got him in eventually but then did it again.  Had to change my course.

Grand Prix

The Good

Got his weave pole entry on his first try.  I was SO happy about that but was able to refocus on the course while he was doing the poles.  Got all my planned crosses in, timing was good (FC btwn weaves & tunnel 5, FC btwn jump 7 & A-frame, RC btwn 17 & 18).  Debated between a RC btwn 16 and 17 or 17 and 18 and settled on 16 and 17 in my head but I was so far ahead on course that I decided to do 17 and 18.  No bars down, he got the dog walk/tunnel discrimination no problem.  I felt calm, relaxed, focused until he blew his dog walk contact.  Lots of nice focus from Strummer.  Good teeter.

Areas for Improvement

Missed his dog walk and A-frame contacts.  After he missed the dog walk I started rushing, changing my original handling plan and didn't support the last 2 obstacles so he ran past the chute and jump and started heading out of the ring without me.  I called him back to finish them and he did no problem.


Advanced Jumpers

No course map.

The Good
I felt calm and focused despite missing half the walk through and being rushed when I got to the trial site.  Got all my crosses in, timing was good for them.  Strum kept all the bars up even on the 2 front crosses that I did.  Didn't get lost.  Was able to refocus and finish up the course nicely with a RC after we had a mistake.

Areas for Improvement
After I got my front crosses in and Strum had the bars up I started celebrating in my head and lost my focus on the course.  I started rushing and didn't support a jump so he ran past it.


The Good

Opening was nice and smooth up through the A-frame.  Got his weave entry from 7 to 8.  Nice tight collected turns and the 9-10-11 set up jumps even though I did them in the wrong order.  Strum kept all the bars up despite lots of scenarios where he would have had them down in the past.  Got his A-frame contact (I think, somebody told me she thought he did).

Areas for Improvement

I did a FC at the A-frame and he dove behind me to take the off course tunnel entrance.  I think he was trying to avoid me or maybe I took my eye off him for too long while doing the cross.  Then I got distracted, initially I thought by the off course but now I think it might have been because I was happy that he got his weave pole entrance.  Either way I got lost at that 9-10-11 sequence (Front crossed the weave poles and sent him over the #15 jump then a beautiful tight turn to the #9 jump.  Who knows what goes through my head).  Was clean the rest of the course but had a very wide turn btwn. 15 and 16.  That was a problem area for a lot of dogs and a lot of bars came down.

Starters Standard

The Good

No off courses, beautiful fast table, got his A-frame.  No handling issues or rushing or losing focus.

Kept Strum on my left for 1 thru 6 then on my right for 9 thru 13.  Easy course.  5 faults for the missed dog walk.  Starters is so boring.

Areas for Improvement

Missed his weave entry the first time.  Missed his dog walk contact.


Starters Snooker

The Good
The handwritten numbers in the triangles are my opening.

1 thru 3 in the opening was good.  The closing was good through 6 where he missed his A-frame contact.

I was able to think on my feet and get him through the opening when things headed south.

Areas for Improvement

I think he missed all his weave entries and something crazy happened between 4-6 but we got it.  He popped out of the second set of weaves so we didn't get credit for it.

He missed his A-frame contact in the closing.

Starters Standard

The Good

Got his weave entry, yeeha!  I had him on my right from the A-frame to the weaves and it worked a treat.

Nice fast solid table.

Kept all the bars up.

Areas for Improvement

Missed his dog walk and A-frame contacts.

I had him on my right coming out of the #10 tunnel and was too late with my RC btwn 11 and the teeter so he had to double back and got on the teeter at an extreme angle and missed the up contact.  I was too far out of position to fix his path.  In hindsight it turned out I had plenty of time for a FC btwn 11 and the teeter.


Not sure how helpful all that will be to me vs. the time it took and I'm sure it's painfully boring to read.  I'm going to put a little overview for myself that might end up being more useful.


In general the big issue was missed contacts, in particular the dog walk.  Weave entries are also an issue.  They're not getting worse but not getting better either though he did get a few nice ones.  The trainer in me wants to stop and celebrate when he gets an entry and this is distracting me from the rest of the course.  I need to give him the verbal praise without losing my own focus.  Otherwise things went o.k., he was listening nicely and seemed able to relax a bit (this is relative of course) before his runs.  It was a small, laid back trial and I was relaxed myself.  Felt good to be out there running despite the mistakes.

Trial Stats

Perf. Advanced Gamblers Q, 1st place

No titles earned.

0/3 (0%)  Worst trial ever.  Only practiced them twice in the past month since the last trial.

4/7 (57%)  This is also a new low.  Not sure what was going on.

All were legal except for the missed up contact with the poor approach.  They were better than they've  been.  Still room for improvement but I think he stopped at the tip point for every one and mostly waited for a release before charging forward.

Weave entries
3/6 (50%)  Sadly I think this is typical for him.

100% baby.  I think it's the first time he's kept all the bars up at a trial.  I have no explanation for the success except for maybe all the handling exercises/practice I've been doing.


I made a decision after the last DOCNA trial that I need to build a dog walk for the yard even though it'll only barely fit.  I've decided the problems I'm having with the dog walk at the moment are due to not being able to train it in short sessions throughout the day.  At least now he's making a big obvious leap instead of those impossible to detect hit or misses that he was doing a couple of months ago.  The big leaps are easy to not reward.  I just need better access to equipment and some better weather.  Lola and Hermes say it might be some time before my yard is melted again.


  1. All that mental management is making MY head hurt!

  2. I say you are doing AWESOME!! My rule is to not read anything that makes me feel guilty. I would rather be happy and oblivious than sad. Although, now that I think about it that may not be a great rule. :)

  3. I think I need a Wubba too! Love that focus. Please share: what book are you reading? I like to "touch base" with mental management, but try not to let it make me crazy.

  4. Love that last photo!

    Look at you with all those detailed notes from your trial! What great Mental Management you have!

    I had a similar experience with a book on how to get what you really want out of life. What I got was really depressed to the point of needing treatment. Really. Then I found some articles/research on how that kind of thing happens more than you'd think.

    Ii think I learned some good stuff from the book, but I have to have better Mental management in terms of really picking what I can apply without too much discomfort and what I need to just set aside for later or for never.

  5. Thanks Catalina, and I do agree.

    I remember when I took psychology classes in college they always warned us not to start diagnosing ourselves with all the diseases we were studying and that the tendency to do that was common.

    The book I'm reading is called 'In Pursuit of Excellence-How to win in sport and life through mental training' by Terry Orlick, PhD. It was initially published in 1980 and I remember my high school track coach using some of these techniques with us before a meet. I'm reading the 4th edition which was published in 2008. Some of it is interesting, some is obvious, some is repetitive to the point where I think it might be intentional to help you absorb it on a more subconscious level. There are interviews with gold medal winning Olympians and such that are interesting.

    I think at the upper levels of any sport including agility that it's all about mental management. I also think this sort of thing can be helpful to people who are too nervous standing on the start line or too focused on results to the point where it's spoiling the sport for them. But for someone like me who's very analytical I think there's such a thing as thinking too much which is yet again another mental management problem.

  6. There may be better books out there, I only picked this up because I was at the library researching something else and I happened to come across it and thought it looked interesting.

  7. All the bars up - that is awesome! Sounds like a fun weekend. Wish I could of made it.

  8. Well we missed you guys too. I don't think there was anyone from out of state. Such a dicey time of year to be driving and the roads were bad to the south.

  9. Hoo boy. If I read that book I'd think I'd be so focused on trying to remember to focus that I'd forget what exactly it was I was supposed to be focusing on. Reminds me of when they some people say "Think about nothing" as instructions on how to meditate and such.

    No bars is a great accomplishment for a speedy gonzalez dog like Strummer!