Sunday, September 30, 2012
USDAA Nationals Days 3 and 4
Strum and I had a great few days at Nationals. And I ended up having a lot more fun in general than I thought I would. Both the site and the layout are so much nicer than Westworld in Scottsdale. The crating is way closer to the rings, the parking is way closer to the site, the grass is lush and green, nothing like the dry slippery stuff in Scottsdale. And the artificial turf is great. Other than the late evening/overnight rain the weather has been perfect. A little warm the past 2 days but high 60's, low 70's is so much nicer than 85-95 degrees. If they had set all the rings up on the turf then they wouldn't have had scheduling issues due to rain saturating the grass fields but I guess they wanted to try to please everybody so had a mixture of grass and turf. Still not happy about the 22" weave poles and Strum (and other dogs) struggled with them this weekend but oh well.
Lush green fields
Fresh snow on the mountains in the background. They look a little hazy, maybe there's still lingering smoke from the wildfires in Idaho.
Didn't take many photos, somehow not much seemed interesting enough. Or maybe was burnt out from all the picture taking in Utah. Forgot to get shots of the turf rings.
Day 4 was Team Gamblers and Team Jumpers, both events that I was looking forward too. We usually do well in Gamblers as long as it's not a distance challenge and luckily this time it wasn't. And I love Jumpers, my favorite class.
This course didn't give you a lot of options for the gamble though. The opening was 25 seconds (for 22" dogs) of point gathering then when the horn went you had to go over the Gateway jump then take 1-3-5 point obstacles, any order, and only those 3 obstacles then cross the finish jump in 15 seconds (22" dogs). Since the teeter was the only 5 point obstacle near the finish you were pretty much stuck with that. I didn't see anyone attempt any other contact. Also the jump before the teeter was pretty much the only jump that made sense so the only choice you had was which tunnel to take. I took the tunnel by the Gateway jump then jump then teeter then out. Lots of people chose this option and many had dogs take the off course tunnel on the way out. The other popular option was jump-teeter-tunnel to the right of the teeter and out. Pretty much the only other variation I saw was jump-teeter-tire and out the long way around. And the handler only did that because her dog went racing off the teeter and took the tire before she could stop it. Kind of a boring gamble for Nationals if you ask me but I shouldn't complain because I got it. I chose a boring course for the opening to avoid the dogwalk and weave poles. If it wasn't Team and Nationals I would have chosen a more challenging course but instead I went for maximum points given Strummer's strengths. We even ended up with 3 more points than I had planned for.
Ran Gamblers at around 11:20 then didn't run Jumpers until 5:00 or so. Jonny and I went out for lunch then I sat around forever beating my brains out over the Jumpers course. It was a very technical, international style course and I was probably one of the few people who thought it looked fun and was excited to run it.
I made it through with refusals between 1 and 2 and of course a missed weave pole entry. Such an easy entry too. I walked the course with a front cross between 10 and 11 and then again between 11 and 12. Seemed like no problem when I walked it. Then I saw practically no one run it that way. Most people did rear crosses. Most people also had wide turns with those rear crosses and refusals, run bys, back jumps at jump #11. I also debated back and forth about which way to turn Strummer over jump #9. I was leaning towards turning him to his right because it gave a much better line to the broad jump which he'd sliced in Steeplechase quarterfinals due to jumping wide and me not bringing him in enough. But a friend pointed out that if I was going to do the fronts, wrapping him to the right would put me too far behind. In the end I turned him to his left and waited every so briefly until he came into me and still easily got my fronts in and nice tight turns through that serp. (at least relative to most other folks who did rears).
The pull through the gap after the #17 tunnel was also a challenge. My initial plan was to do a blind cross after the tunnel and finish 18 and 19 with Strum on my left but in the end I chickened out, pulled him through on my right and did get the anticipated turn towards the broad jump but at least it wasn't an off course. I hate taking the safe way but Team at Nationals is not the place to take chances. I was so happy to get through with only 2 refusals and the wasted time. Lots of really good handlers had E's.
So pleased with the run, what a good boy Strummer was and with a dog running in the next ring as well. Once again, was beaming all the way home.
Day 4 was only Team Standard and thankfully we ran just after noon so I didn't have to sit around until the end of the day. This was another technical course and again I was excited to run it though we've never done anything close to such a complicated course in a trial situation.
The only handling blip was after the #9 jump. I didn't support the #10 jump enough, turned my shoulders too soon because I wanted a tight turn to the weaves. Some people didn't cue the turn soon enough and got the #3 off course jump or an impossible line to the weaves. For once he got his weave entry then mysteriously popped out far into the poles. The only thing I can think is that he was struggling to hold on with the spacing. Then we got called on the dogwalk but it was a very solid obvious hit with 3 paws in the yellow so I don't know what the judge was thinking. I even pulled a photo off of the video. You can't see it from that angle but he had his back feet hit on the yellow as well so it's not as close as it looks. The judge was at such a bad viewing angle too, probably from having to judge the stupid up contact. Oh well. Until they get some sort of contact zone sensor pads for National events we just have to live with the calls we get.
Nonetheless, I was thrilled to get through that course with only a couple of blips. Strum was such a good boy, so pleased with him. Again, lots of E's on that course.
My awesome teammates didn't E on Jumpers or Standard either, just some minor faults here and there and Team Here for the Party ended up in 50th place out of 170 teams. They take the top 30 teams for relay finals so we didn't quite make that but still I'm plenty happy with our result. Was so glad to be on such a great, low pressure team.
In all I had a great time at Nationals despite all the down time. Strummer did so well, so calm and focused. He did start to lose it before his Gamblers run when a loudspeaker kept feeding back right next to the ring. This caused him to start freaking out at the Gamble horn and loudspeaker but I managed to work him through it and he had a great Gamblers run. He was also getting a bit wound up before his Jumpers run probably because it was so late and he was overtired/overstimulated. But I worked his focus like crazy before his run, having him heel at my side which is something that he likes to do and calms him down. Again, he was great once he got into the ring.
I also got to meet Steve, the one and only Agility Nerd. He was in our rotation and I got to see some of his awesome runs with his Border Collie Meeker. Such a wonderful, smooth team to watch.
Was happy that they weren't calling fault limits and whistling people out of the ring for E's. At least they weren't in my ring or any of the rings I watched. That was my biggest complaint with that Nationals I went to at Scottsdale. I did get more of a feeling that USDAA was trying to accommodate people and cater more to the competitor this time. They even gave us really nice t-shirts and schwag this time. The picture frame is so nice, can't wait to get the photos I ordered.
I hope they'll bring Nationals back here. The facility was so nice for agility and for a Nationals type event. Don't know why they aren't doing it 2 years in a row like they did in Kentucky but I guess I should be thankful enough for having had at least the one opportunity.