Thursday, April 2, 2009

AKC Nationals, Concord NC, 2009

Well, back from AKC nationals 2009 and stuck at home due to ice and snow and have time to blog. WOW, is a word that comes to mind when discussing my experience this year. Huge highs, huge lows, crazy weather and sickness all happened at the same time. I had so much emotion both good and bad but I will start at the beginning.

I left KS on tuesday driving in an RV with my friend and four dogs. We took another friend's dog with us as she flew and we had his wife's dog as well. I have never ridden in a big rv so this was my first experience with that and let me tell you, I really liked it! Nothing like being able to get up and potty or take a nap and never having to pull off the road. We had a great trip up, despite the constant cross winds and then the rain and fog in the mountains. I just want to say that i would rather be in an RV anyday in the mountians versus a car. Can you say "air brakes" or "exhaust brakes"? It also helps to have an expert driver! Anyway we got to the show sight in two days and got hooked up and set up on wednesday. We got to set up our crating area on thursday and everyone flying got in that day too. We had a ton of fun decorating as all of our group brought something to add to the KS theme that included a bunch of sunflowers, bees, KS flags, blue and yellow streamers, and stars. We hands down had the best decorations of all the states and should have won something for our efforts i think! Anyway, we got to check in and get all of our goodies and go check out the vendors. I ended up buying some wateproof shoes since it had been raining for days and all the potty areas were muck. Mom got in that afternoon and we got settled in the hotel and got to visit with my aunt who flew with mom.

Day 1 is the ISC team competition in which we do an ISC course for both standard and Jumpers. The courses were tough, but nothing we had never seen. I am very lucky to have a trainer who is always vying for a spot on the world team so she has us do a lot of ISC courses and threadles, serpentines, and broad jumps are common to us. I had jumpers first and had a clean run. Well, clean on paper but not a good run for me handling. I left out a critical front cross and ended up on the opposite side of where i needed to be. I had planned on doing a rear cross to cross and was already on the side i needed to be, but miller anticipate a rear as I think i stepped into his line and turned left inside of right. He managed to do a spin, not take the bar down, and not back jump the jump and caught up with me (thank you miller) and finished the course great. We did the threadle great, but I had really been working threadles so that didn't even concern me. I came off the course elated to have a clean run but disappointed in my handling. I can walk to the line completely calm and focused and somehow those hidden nerves seem to come out when I am running. They either cause me to revert to rear crosses or forget the course. I hate this and wish I could somehow not do this, but I am guess I am human!

Now, let me back up and bring in a detail i have left out. I started getting ill on monday night before we left. I had thought it was allergies but as the night went on, I realized it wasn't. I had a horrible sore throat and tons of congestion that seemed to reside in my head. I felt like pure dog crap the first day of our trip, even though i had drugs to help me feel better. I had to take benedryl at night so I could sleep and always woke up feeling drugged. I would like to blame all of my poor handling on my sickness but I don't think that would be fair. I know the benendryl hangovers helped calm me in the am since i felt like i was in a huge fog.

So our next run was standard and I felt confident that the nerves were done and i was ready to get to business. Once again, the course was pretty fun, with a serpentine and a pull through to the dog walk which had tons of options of how to handle. I went to the line once again very confident. This was in the big building and was the ring where the announcer announced. I was excited to do well in front of so many people. Once again, I walked to the line very confident but my nerves came out at the third obstacle. Everyone had been doing a front cross and running on the opposite side of the line, but since I had a running a-frame, I had to stay on the other side to manage the set of jumps after the a-frame. Well, I guess after watching so many people do the front cross, I headed to do the front cross and realized that was not what I wanted to do, but was so far in the pocket that I made miller miss the tire jump all together. I just went on and the run seemed to fall apart, although he did get the serpentine with the pull through and had an awesome dog walk. Once again, my nerves had come out and gotten the best of me, even though I had walked to the line very confidently. I was really down, I felt like I had handled like crap and had let our team down. By not completing all the obstacles (he ran around, the tire, the double and something else I am sure of) we had added a zero to our team score. Thank goodness we ended up 17th out of I think 24 but i guess we could have ended better had I gone back and gotten all the obstacles. Everyone told me to shake it off and I felt like I did or so I thought. I did hear the announcer say that miller was a rescue dog but I didn't hear the rest. I am hoping that in the video I bought, I will be able to hear the announcer better and see what she says.

The next day was the start of the actual competition. We had two runs that day, standard and jumpers. I felt confident that we were going to shake off the disaster that was our standard run from friday. We had standard in the big ring again and I was a little concerned. I had previously gotten miller out really early because I was worried that I wouldn't be over to the line in time because of the congestion to get from the stalling area to the main rings and I think that contributed to Miller' crazy run (i didn't help matters for sure). Anyway, I decided to wait until about 15 or so dogs before I came over and I do think it helped, but our run ended up not good anyway. He ran around the third jump! I am anxious to see the videos to see what caused him to do that because he ran around the outside of the jump. It was a very odd thing for him to do as he had to go out around the jump which was pretty far away from me. There was a dummy jump that he could have locked in on and then ran past the jump, but the video that my cousin shot with her digital camera made it look like he looked at me, barked and then ran out around the jump. I was so puzzled but went back, completed the jump and then continued on the course. I had decided that since I had NQd, I wanted to do the double rear cross at the end since it looked so fun, but he didn't read it and got another refusal so I know what we need to work on, but finished the course with some dignity left intact. Everyone watching from my group said it was just a fluke so I just shook it off and went on to my jumper's run. The jumper's course was a very nice flowing course, but there were a few essential front crosses that had to be done and of course as I was going to the end, the nerves reared up their ugly heads and I missed a very very essential front cross and he got a refusal because my only option was a rear cross and he didn't read it as go over the jump and then turn, he read it as turn. I came off of the course feeling like a total idiot because I had three jumps to go and I couldn't believe that yet again, I had let nerves get the best of me and screw my run. I felt like I had not showed up as a handler and I felt so disgusted with myself. I wanted to just go somewhere and cry but I pulled it together, went out and cheered my group on, and then went back to the hotel and had a good cry. I am so concerned that for whatever reason, I have a mental block when it comes to nationals. Let me digress a minute and go backwards to explain a few things.

I have been to a few national events, aussie nationals (which aren't that big a deal), nationals the year before in tulsa (ran someone else's dog), and USDAA nationals. While I felt like I performed well at USDAA nationals in team, I do felt like the crazy nerves got me in the semi-finals for PNS. I had three obstacles left to go and screwed up and did a blind cross which did not need to be done at all and took a wrong obstacle. I was so defeated!!!!! I also for the past two years have royally screwed up aussie nationals. Now in my defense the first year we went was my first time in excellent and the second year miller had just come off of a major shoulder injury so they may not have been the best ever. I have run my miller a total of 13 runs at aussie nationals a total of 13 times with one Q to show for it. I have both times cried the whole 6 hours home. I have this weird mental block that seems to come out at the worst times. I hope that I can learn from this past nationals and correct whatever mental issues I have and move forward but it is so hard to put it out of my mind. The good news is that I will be going to aussie nationals again this year, with only three double Q's needed for my MACH and all of my friends will be there to support me, walk the courses with me and keep my spirits up. I made it my mission this year to get as many people from my area with aussies to go and I think it is going to pay off. At least we will have a really, really good time, even if none of us Q!

Round three was sunday and I had nothing to loose. At this point I had no Q's going into the final round, no chance of anything so I thought why the hell not go out and run the course like I know I can run it. I went out there and ran balls to the wall and of course got the Q no problem. I was elated but then came the disappointment that I knew that I should have run like that all weekend. I do feel like my standard run was just a fluke but the dang jumper's run should have been in the bag. I finally got that little ribbon i had so wanted all weekend and for what? I really was disappointed that the handler I know I am had not shown up. The rest of our group did really well with several of our members gettting into the challenger's round, which was so exciting. We cheered each and everyone of them on! In the end, nobody made finals, but we had a great time cheering in the stands for finals.

My mom flew out monday morning and John and I headed back to KS. It was such a bittersweet trip as both of us felt like we could have done better. You live and you learn and go own with your life. I felt like I had been on horse and had been thrown off and I justed wanted to get back on. I had entered a show the very next weekend and even though I was super tired, i was very glad that i had entered. Of course i went 3 for 4, one double Q, a single Q, a third, a fourth, and a fifth place with 43 speed points. I just wish that handler could have show up at nationals! Even the Q I didn't get, I pushed him and had an awesome run, despite the mistake. Oh well, there is always next year. See ya in Tulsa in 2010!!!!!