03 April 2012

AKC Nationals 2012

Despite the blog title, this was a bit of a daunting trip. My first airborn dog trip alone. I managed though; it helped to use an airport and airline and shipping office that I was familiar with on the way out, and the airport and parking lots I'm also familiar with as far as dogs go. It was a long trip for us since I wanted to fly direct and not mess around with connecting flights. I drove 2.5 hours up to Newark area, stayed at someone's house Tuesday night, flew 6 hours to San Francisco then drove 4 hours over to Reno on Wednesday.

There are snowy mountains between San Francisco and Reno! A pretty drive!

I got into Reno without any major hitches around 6pm local time. i checked into the (very nice) hotel, ran to Whole Foods for a quick shopping trip, then ran to the airport to get my room-mate who flew directly into Reno.

Thursday was a resting day, mostly. I went to the site, got my borrowed crates, chair and cooler (thanks Barbara P!) and checked in. I signed Kiba up for the practice run to enforce her contact behavior. We crashed early Thursday night. the 3 hour time difference is rough!

Friday started out with the "Warm up Standard run", in which I drilled Kiba's contacts a bit. She was feeling pretty fresh and almost went off course ogling a dogwalk ramp, which I also briefly paused to correct. I felt that she ran pretty well for a warm up though. In the afternoon we had the Time 2 Beat run. This is new for AKC Nationals and they added some excitement to it by giving the winner a bye into Challenger Round (which passes down the line to 2nd, 3rd, etc if the winner doesn't need it). Oh and also $50, which I didn't even realize until afterwards. This was a fun but not all that technical course, which was apparently the theme for the weekend aside from Challenger and Hybrid rounds... i planned 2 blind crosses and they both worked well, and Kiba ran very nicely, winning handily even with a nice faceplant after the 3rd jump. She drove hard and turned tight and overall I was very pleased. So we started the weekend strongly with a bye into Challengers (which I hoped we wouldn't need) and $50 (which I always need).

Trig ran well in T2B for me but she almost fell off the seesaw, which was more angled in our ring than the others. She saved it, but I held her for a second to be sure she had it, and then she knocked the triple which was next - it was a very big distance and also in the deep dirt, which she hadn't had a chance to adapt to yet since I didn't run her in the "warm up".

Saturday was Rounds 1 and 2. I wasn't really excited about either of these courses. i felt that the only reason they were challenging was because people ran them with "Nationals adrenalin". They were very typical local type courses. Kiba ran clean with a great run in Round 1 for a 1st place, Trig also ran that one clean and was about 2.5 sec away from 1st (not sure what placement, not top 10 though). In Round 2, Standard, I was determined to not "go for it" since all I needed was clean runs, and kept telling myself to hold contacts so I would still have them on Sunday. And I did it; I held contacts and didn't try to win the class - we got 4th anyway but I definitely enforced a stop on all 3 contacts, probably losing us a second or so of time. You can see in the video I'm running "for clean":

Trig had a very good Standard run going and I felt that she was running very well but then she knocked the panel near the end. Her time was pretty good, only 2 seconds off the fastest dogs, which I was pretty happy with.

On Sunday we had Hybrid, Round 3. I knew this run didn't matter much for Trig since she couldn't make Finals or Challenger Round due to the ultra-competitive nature of the small 26" class at Nationals (it's pretty much all World Team members and hopefuls), but I still wanted to put in a good competitive run just in case the World Team deciders were watching ;) and we did - I felt that she ran very well on the toughest course she had all weekend, and she ended up around 15th place with a good solid time. If she had run all 3 clean she still would not have made Finals, but she would have been around 8th or 9th overall based on her times, which isn't too shabby! With the bar down she was 21st out of almost 50. So top half at least!

Trig's brother Rush was also at Nationals, and ran 3 clean runs, missing Finals by only 5 dogs! That's great for her first time there, and with such a young dog.

Rush on left, Trig on right. He's less than an inch taller but Trig scrunched for the photo.
So then Kiba had to run Hybrid. It was a good course for us, although I chose more rear crosses than usual in order to both babysit her teeter and to get the best line through the middle section. It worked great, and once again we won even with a slightly imperfect run - she stopped short on her seesaw and I made her come down farther after it landed in order to make sure the judge saw her feet in the contact zone. Aside from that she was once again fast and tight for 1st place, cementing her spot in Finals and passing the Challenger Round bye on down the line.

We had about 6 hours between that run and Finals, due to waiting for Challenger Round. I got my Finals shirt (a nice dark grey which made the logo really stand out), picked up Kiba's ribbons, and got her worked on one last time. The hard surface was affecting most dogs' feet and backs a little bit, and she was no exception, so I minimized walking and stairs for a while and let her sleep.

L to R: Finalist ribbon, 1st/Q in Hybrid, 4th/Q in Standard, 1st/Q in JWW, 1st/Q in T2B, the most ribbons I've ever gotten at AKC Nationals!

Finals on paper didn't look overly difficult, but as always, the adrenalin and stress would cause mistakes. The discrimination, while not as tightly spaced as the one from 2009, was definitely going to be an issue due to the dog jumping straight towards the wrong obstacle. Aside from that I was a bit disappointed as it seemed like just another "fastest dog wins" course, so popular in Final rounds here in the USA. I really want more difficult Finals here.... I want "best handler wins"! Not to say that isn't always the case now, but I want a harder test!

Regardless, this particular handler still managed to mess it up. I rarely make stupid handling mistakes but I surely did in this run. I will admit I did not like running after Ashley and Luka, because they put in a great round and the cheering was still going on when the timer told me to go, which unfocused me a bit. Kiba was good through the weaves, working hard to stick her entry. I was too focused on her at that point, and as soon as she finished her poles I stepped across sideways and got a really nice tight turn on the next jump, executed my front cross in the right place..... and over-rotated, presenting Kiba with open space instead of the next obstacle. Predictably she did what I've trained her to do, and didn't go out and take the jump. So there went our shot at the prestigious NAC title. Duh! I still can't believe I did that - not to brag, but it is so rare for me to do something like that! I took that part of the course for granted, and hopefully i will never do so again!

We have videos on order from 4 Legged Flix, so I should get them soon, until then, sorry. Here's some more pics of my drive on the way from Reno back to San Francisco on Monday (a VERY LONG travel day). 


Tori Self said...

You had some phenomenal runs this weekend. Always enjoy watching you run your dogs. Agree on the U.S. finals courses not being challenging enough, even though I also made a silly mistake;)

Rosanne said...

Thanks! I was happy with all of our other runs. Maybe the Finals course was just too easy for us ;)