The 2014 AKC National Agility Championship was enormous. As usual it was well organized and any problems that cropped up were addressed as quickly as possible. For example, on Thursday the main arena was super dusty - by mid-day I saw AKC staff out there with hoses watering it down and the rest of the weekend they had the arena staff keeping it damp and it made a huge difference.
I wore a fitbit Thurs to Saturday. I walked 10 to 13 miles each day. Yes. That's a lot. It was a lot of walking on concrete and so I was quite sore afterwards but I'm not worried about the dogs because 95% of my walking was done without them - checking rings, running orders, walking courses, going to restrooms, going to watch, etc. The dogs actually held up great.
I ran Trig for my mother, and she had 3 clean runs out of 4. She isn't a super speed demon dog so I was really pleased with her for getting 9 points in Time 2 Beat, placing 26th in JWW (out of about 480 dogs), and being only a couple seconds off the lead time in Hybrid. She would have easily coasted into the Finals with those times except that in Standard she popped out of the tenth weave pole and dived through the tire. That was odd. I was right next to the poles, too, not lateral or ahead or anything, she just kind of went "oh, tire!" and left me. Oh well. A good showing nonetheless!
Strafe performed pretty damned well considering I wasn't sure whether he'd be well enough to run, up to about a week beforehand. And while we did those few runs at UKI the week before, he was basically on "rest" other than that, just a few short walks otherwise. He placed 2nd in Time 2 Beat, just a hair from 1st, and I hadn't really intended to try to win it, so that was a great start to the weekend. Then in the first round I made some conservative choices about which way to turn and how to handle, opting for the easier weave entrance and a boring rear cross, knowing that with the way Strafe's been running if I could just run 3 clean we'd make Finals. So we got 4th in that run - JWW - because while I wasn't pushing, it certainly was a nice efficient run. In standard I didn't like the ending, a back and forth affair that involved hard turns on the tire, the parallel double (Strafe's worst jump), and the panel. Well I chickened out on a front cross I wanted to do, and held back for the rear, and Strafe knocked the panel. So in Hybrid I put on my big girl pants and ran clean AT ALL COSTS (to the tune of a rather slow time, for us, 2 seconds or so off the winner) in order to make Challenger round. And we did it. On to Challenger!
Kiba was super fabulous for what was almost certainly her last national event. A huge brain fart in T2B meant no placement there (what 12th weave pole?)... But then she ran clean in JWW for a 5th place, and clean in Standard for 3rd, I tried really hard to keep her clean in Hybrid but she misread my cue and turned the wrong way on a jump, knocking the bar. This meant I had both dogs in Challenger round...
Challenger round was hectic and exciting and frustrating and exhausting all at once. I've actually had 2 dogs in this run before, way back in Tulsa 2010. But the location of the ring they were using for this, and the lack of announcements happening in the crating area, meant that I was feeling a bit hassled and confused about when I needed to walk and how long I had to prepare my dogs, etc. It all ended up working out in the end but I am sure i logged an insane amount of miles on the concrete that day.
So Challenger round was, as usual, the most fun course of the entire weekend. I knew when I saw it that it was a good course for Strafe. I wasn't as sure about Kiba, as she has some special handling requirements due to her minor jumping issue, and if I don't respect those she will knock bars or go off course. So I had just slightly different plans for the 2 dogs. Kiba ran first, and I was pleased with the turn she started to give me on the hard wrap at 7 but then at the last second I chickened out on the blind cross following it because I was sure she was going to back jump if I did, so I ended up pulling her and then doing 2 rear crosses in a row, however, she was still so tight and fast that she won! With Strafe everything went much more smoothly, he laid down a very nice, steady, efficient run and also won his height. I'm not sure if anyone's ever won 2 different heights of Challenger Round before, but what a crazy rush that is!
The disadvantages of taking the Challenger Round route to Finals are multiple though. First and most importantly, both you and the dog are more tired. Normal Finalists get to rest and watch Challengers (I've done that too, it's way more relaxing). I was running and walking and warming up and cooling down and planning. And then of course I had to take whatever size Finalist shirt was left over. I know, a super #FirstWorldProblem if ever there was one, but it can be distracting, running in what is essentially a tunic rather than a well fitted shirt. And this year Finals ran quite late. I admit, I am not a night person. I had been going non-stop all day from before 5am. I was TIRED for Finals. The Finals course was alright but it inspired no excitement from me as the Challenger Round did. It was not actually a good course for Kiba with her jumping problems. I had to rear cross the see-saw. There were a lot of weird little traps. It was an OK course for Strafe but not super. The spacing was really tight in a few places. I had to trust his see-saw too. Of course none of this means I did not TRY to win with both dogs! I really would have loved to run Kiba clean, especially. That little dog has tried so hard for me. 6 AKC Nationals, and now 3 Finals runs. But it was not to be. We were doing pretty well but then off the dogwalk she got her eye on the see-saw and ended up on the wrong side of the next jump when I called her off. Not her fault - I did not even notice that trap. And that's something I have to remember a lot with her, to look for traps, as she really looks ahead at stuff. With Strafe he knocked the 3rd jump so we were out right there! Then he missed his weave entry as my German turn was sloppy, then he flew off the see-saw. I'm just happy to make it there. He's still only 3, and I'm happy with our showing this year, we got 1 step farther than last year when we placed 3rd in Challengers.
So we came home from Nationals EXHAUSTED but happy, even though neither of my dogs ran clean in Finals, I was really happy they both GOT THERE with me.
Then on Wednesday I started to get sick. Lots of people are sick after this NAC - I think it was just SO MANY people in dusty conditions in an enclosed building with a heating system. Prime for viral spreading. Mine is something upper respiratory, bronchial, and I ended up missing all 3 days of the local trial this weekend trying to heal from it. Tonight I think I'm getting better, going to continue resting and hope I am over this by the time I leave for Vancouver on Thursday morning!