Tuesday, October 21, 2014

USDAA Cynosport World Games 2014

No idea if anyone visits here any more, but I thought I'd share about Philip's adventures at USDAA Nationals (aka Cynosport World Games). This year the Nationals happened to be taking place within a manageable driving distance from me, so I made it a goal to qualify and go with Philip. We went to many local (and not so local) USDAA trials during the year, and we reached our goal of qualifying for every single tournament at the Nationals, as well as earning the ADCH title along the way! So this past week the Nationals took place. This was my (and Philip's) first time at a national agility event, so I didn't know what to expect at all. I had booked a hotel right across the street from the event center months in advance and I drove over there the day before. The trip to the location was pretty uneventful - Philip does great in the car, so we made a few stops on our made and made it in time to check-in and grab a spot in the self-crating area. The following morning, the walk-throughs started early in the morning, so I had to be up by 5:30am to get ready and head over there. Needless to say, this was very hard for me since I don't normally wake up so early. However, I was there to put my everything into it, so I was up and running bright and early. First up was a warm-up run called Power & Speed. This course didn't count towards anything, and was more to get used to the equipment and to the surface. We were on artificial turf which was new to many dogs including Philip. He was noticeably slower during the warm-up run, so I was glad we signed up for it and figured that out. To help him better adjust I took him to an empty corner later-on and ran around making tight turns. That seemed to help him figure out how to grip the surface! In the afternoon, we had two more runs - the quarter-finals for Steeplechase and Grand Prix. Philip had no earned any byes, so we had to run these to progress farther. Philip ran Steeplechase clean and was above the cut-off for a while, but once the known fastest Papillon ran the course, he brought the bar was up, putting Philip out of the game. Next up we ran Grand Prix, and Philip unfortunately knocked down the very first bar, so that was it for GP as well. Two tournaments over, and two to go - DAM team and MC Biathlon. We started with the team runs on the second day. First up was the Standard run. It was a very difficult turn with a tough tunnel / dog-walk discrimination that got a lot of dogs. I wasn't sure what Philip would do, but Philip was a good boy, listened to me and went to correct way. Later on in the course, I got a little lost and earned him a refusal, but was able to fix it. All in all Philip had the slowest time, but he didn't E. Unfortunately our two team-mates both made mistakes and got Es. Second up was the Snooker run. Philip is generally good in Snooker so I wasn't too worried. We were to take 3 or 4 reds, so I planned for all 4, with a 7 point, 5 points, and two 4 point colors in between. When we approached the 5-point color, I heard a bar go down and I stopped momentarily, trying to think if I need to change anything (was this a red bar? if so we'd need to find another red immediately!). Shortly I heard the judge call out "zero" so I knew it was no problem and continued with my plan. All in all, Philip got through obstacle 6 in the closing before the buzzer - a good run for us! That concluded day 2. On the third day we only had one run - team gamblers. As is typical with DAM gamblers, the bonus round was not distance, but rather a point-collecting system before the buzzer goes off. In these gambles, you collect points by the laid-out rules, and must cross the finish jump before the buzzer. If the buzzer goes first you lose all the closing points. I changes my plan many times, but once our turn came to run, I stuck to a fairly safe route and Philip listened to all my directions very well. We finished the opening pretty much as planned, though a bit farther than desired from the closing obstacles, so we hurried back there, gathered and few points and headed up at a safe time in order to ensure we don't lose the points. All in all 44 points for the run. By the end of the day, our team was in 100th place, and there was no hope getting back to top 30. We had only one more team course left to do - jumpers. Day 4 also started the biathlon tournament, and we had to run the MC Standard course. Surprisingly, I thought this course looked easier than the team standard a couple days prior. Once Philip got to the line, he was feeling spunky and took off a bit faster than usual. This was good since we don't usually make time in MC courses. I guided him through the course and he followed like a pro. He had a bit of a slow down on the dog walk (which was actually due to the sun hitting him right in the eyes there), but he made it over the finish line just barely in time and clean! The course time was 55 seconds, and our time was 54 with some change! After the biathlon run, we went over to jumpers. I was planning to just have some fun with this course since our team was so far behind, but yet again Philip did very well - not the fastest run, but clean :) Later in the evening I learned that having run clean and under course time in MC Standard put us in the "finalists" for the MC Jumpers run the following day. I was so happy that we would get to run in what I called "the fancy ring" where all the big events were taking place. Philip was one of just 8 dogs in the 12" division to make it to the finalists there! First (and last) day had just this last run in store for us. I was a bit nervous to be on camera in the fancy ring, so I walked the course many more times than usual, and I had several back up plans depending how Philip would be running. As we waited for our turn though, I encouraged Philip and tried to get him pumped up to run faster, but once we got to the line and he started running, I knew almost immediately that the poor pup was exhausted from running 5 days in a row. He was going pretty slow and practically fell asleep in the weaves. However, I pushed him and we ran the course clean, though not fast. I wasn't sure what the course time was, so I first watched the rest of the dog in our height - 4 made mistakes, making Philip one of only 4 to run both biathlon courses clean (good job mister!). Then I walked over to the screen and saw that we were almost 5 seconds over time - too bad! In the end, we actually still ended up taking 7th place overall, which was our biggest achievement of the weekend :) So that's a quick and dirty overview of our trip. It was super tiring, but what great fun! I really enjoyed watching all the amazing handlers and dogs. I stayed for all the finals, cheered on my friends, and took awesome pictures. We got home late Sunday night and both got some well-deserved rest. I'm so proud of my little guy - the courses had been very tough all through the Nationals and he took them all in stride, not once going off course! He might not be the fastest, but he is a very solid agility dog, and I love running with him all the same! In March we plan to drive to Reno for the AKC Nationals. I just might post another update then :)