Last week Katrina and I drove the travel trailer to Louisville Kentucky for the USDAA Nationals. We have qualified many times before, but never have attended. I actually liked the idea of an indoor nationals, compared to the outdoor Scottsdale location, since both Skye and Rip do not run well in the heat, and with Scottsdale, it could easily have been in the 90's. As it turned out, the weather was perfect in Kentucky - probably no warmer than about 75, and it only rained a brief time on one day.
We elected to stay at a KOA campground instead of camping onsite for two reasons - the KOA was about $12 a day less, and the Louisville expo center could not guarantee that we would have full hookups - it was first come, first serve, and since we weren't planning on arriving until Tuesday afternoon, I didn't want to chance it. The campground turned out to be very nice with lots of trees and nature trails for walks with the dogs. Well, it was nice until the masses and their kids showed up anyway - more on that later.
So we arrived barely before check-in closed on Tuesday since one of the 2 main bridges over the Ohio? river in Louisville is closed for repairs, which put us in a 1hr+ traffic jam. Checkin was uneventful and we had a chance to setup our crates. We had 4 crates since Ice-man came along for the ride even though he wasn't competing. The crating area was a jam packed building and everyone was nearly on top of each other. This is a lot different than when we went to Tulsa for the AKC Nationals two years ago and had a 10x10 stall. Fortunately, my teammates donated some of their 4'x6' crating space to us and we had enough room for all 4 crates.
Rip was entered in the DAM Team events, as well as the Grand Prix Quarterfinals. Skye was entered in PVP Team events, and the Performance Steeplechase Semi-Finals as well as Performance Grand Prix Semi-Finals. Skye's teammate was Baby, and Rip's teammates were Sharon Murphy & Reo and Art Malott & Mischief (Missy).
Wednesday started the events for us, and we only had Gamblers on the schedule. So, I had 2 runs, and Katrina only got 1 run with Baby. Here is the course map:
This was an interesting course. It presented 2 distance challenges, but only 28 seconds to run the course. For every second (or fraction) over time, you lost 3 points. For every second under time, you got 1 extra point, up to 10. The a-b-c/A-B-C challenge could be done for 10 points as a run-with (no distance) or do it as a distance challenge from the back side of the tunnel. So, handlers had to decide what to do - you could even skip the distance challenges altogether. This was a 1-2-3-5 scoring course, with the teeter worth 5.
For me, I got a little greedy, which is always the downfall of Gamblers. I tried the A-B-C-H distance challenge with Rip and he came out of the first set of 6 poles when I went behind the tunnel. I also tried the 1-2-3-4 distance with him and he turned back and backjumped #2. We did not end up with many points, as we were also 1.07 seconds over time which subtracted 6 points giving us only 13. My teammate Reo had an OK Gambler run for 24 points, but Art & Missy had a worse run than Rip and ended up with only 7 points, so we were near the bottom of the 175 total teams running - I think we were in 150th place or so.
For Skye, I had the same plan, but I intended on running with him at the a-b-c challenge. He did the first 6 poles, the jump, and missed the entry on the second set of 6 poles. I didn't remember, but I could have fixed it and earned the 10 points, but we just went on instead. I also incorporated the 1-2-3-4 challenge and Skye got it very nicely, but my timing was off and the buzzer went off when Skye was on the AFrame on the way out, so we lost 18 points by being way over time! Don't get greedy!!! Skye also ended up with just 13 points, but Baby had a good Gamblers run with 38 points to offset Skye's mess.
We had Team Standard on Thursday as well as Perf GP Semi's for Skye. The Standard course wasn't too bad. Here is the map:
No real leadout was needed. Skye ran this first. Skye did look at the finish jump #19 after the AFrame, which I didn't expect, but I got him into the tunnel fine. We were going great but coming out of the tunnel before the #12 teeter, I didn't give him a very good line, and he fell off the side of the teeter. I put him back on it, but he missed the up contact in the process. We finished the rest of the course OK and ended up with just the 7 points worth of faults.
For Rip, he started out a little worried since the leash-runner came right up to me to get his leash. Rip hates having people behind him at the start and got concerned with ears pinned back and all. I got him going fine and he was slow over the AFrame (again worried because the judge was right next to the frame) but once in the tunnel, he shot out like a cannon! We got through the rest fine up until that darn tunnel to teeter section! I stood closer to the tunnel exit than I should have, to make sure he didn't offcourse the #16 jump but my position sent him right to the weaves. I screamed his name and he stopped just short of entering the poles and came over to the teeter and we continued on fine. He had a really fast dogwalk and we finished with just the 2 point refusal fault.
For our teams, Baby had a great run in Standard and was clean with no faults. This moved us up quite a bit in the standings - maybe 40th place out of 120?
Rip's teammates also got through without any 'E's though everyone had some faults. Still, we moved up to around 100th place, up from 150th.
Skye ran the PGP semi-finals but we ended up with an offcourse. I tried to do a rear-cross at a 180 turn and Skye looked at me like 'Huh?' and went right around the jump. In Grand Prix, you need to be clean, so I didn't bother to bring him back and fix it and just continued with the 'E'. They were not calling fault limits, so anyone that 'E'd a course still got to run it all the way through.
Here is the map from PGP. The problem jump was #13 and he went around the right side of it and then onto #14.
We had team Snooker on Friday, along with Grand Prix quarterfinals for Rip, and Perf Steeplechase semi-finals for Skye.
Here is the snooker map:
I was happy to see that we could only do 3 of the reds. It gives too much advantage to the really fast dogs if they can do all 4 reds, so this leveled the playing field a bit. The time allowed of 46 seconds isn't enough to get really aggressive with Skye - I was concerned that if I tried to go for too many points that we would end up with the buzzer while doing #7 in the close.
Also, since the #7 was jump/AF/jump, with that enticing tunnel under the frame, I elected to stay away from it. Both of my dogs would have a really good chance of grabbing an offcourse tunnel and ending our run early if I tried it.
For Skye, the conservative plan was 5+5+6 in the opening. Other than slipping and almost landing on the ground between the first 5 and the second 5, everything went great and we got all the way through the closing.
For Rip, the plan was for 6+6+6 in the opening. It went really smooth and we got all the way through #6 in the closing! When doing the 7 in the close, Rip took the jump but then shot into the tunnel under the frame (I knew that was a chance!)
For my teams, as it turned out, everyone but me had trouble with this course. Katrina and Baby got 1 point as Baby went behind her and took a jump she wasnt expecting. Rip's teammate Reo also got 1 point - they were going for 7's and after the first jump in the 7, Reo took the tunnel (see! Danger!). I didn't see Mischief run, but she at least got through #4 in the closing. Our team placements suffered after Snooker. I didn't tell Katrina that had she completed her plan, we would have been in 20th place, but instead were about 65th place.
Rip got to run the Grand Prix quarters next. This is the course:
The course was a little tricky. He went wide after #5 as though he didn't see the tunnel, but went in OK. The obvious tricky area was around 9 through 14. There were a lot of obstacles in close proximity with multiple direction changes. This one caught us, and after jump #10, I thought I had Rip's attention for the tunnel but he started up the dogwalk behind me. Whistle! I did get him and put him in the tunnel, and then we finished it up clean. He really ran nice, but you cant be getting offcourses! Unfortunately, Katrina was busy staring at the snooker ring next to this one and didn't watch us or film us.
At the end of the day, around 5:30pm, Skye got to run the Perf speed jumping semi's. The course was made for fast dogs and I knew this would be trouble for us as we can accel more at handling type courses. Here is the course:
We ran this clean without any bobbles and I was trying to push Skye to go fast. We ended up with a time about 36.1, but the real fast performance dogs were turning in times in the 30.x's. Once you factor the 15% average, the qualifier cutoff was around 35.1 so we didn't make it. I was still happy with his run - he did a great job.
For us, Saturday was the last day of competition. Sunday is for team and GP finals which we were not in.
Saturday's team jumpers course was really challenging, and though I don't have the exact numbers, this course proved really tough for the bigger dogs with about 1/3 of the competitors getting an "E".
Here is the map:
The line from jump #3 to #4 caused many of the issues. Dog after dog took the #9 offcourse. The other biggest problem area was jump #16, as it was a slice and the dog's momentum tended to put them past the plane. Lots of dogs missed taking #16 altogether and shot into the tunnel.
I am proud to say that both Skye and Rip ran this well with just 1 bar down. I ran it conservatively for Rip, though I wish I had pushed a little more as it was a good course for him. I did a blind cross after the tunnel and he knocked #18.
For Skye, I got momentarily lost around 5-6-7, and this caused the #7 jump to get knocked. I did regain my senses and we continued on and ran the rest clean.
For my teams, Baby also ran this with just 1 bar knocked. This helped move us back up a bit in the standings and we finished in 43'rd place out of 120 teams. In the woulda-coulda-shoulda category, had Katrina finished her Snooker plan, we would have been in 16th place. They took just 12 Performance teams into the finals, so we still would not have made it, but we were really close and a better Gambler performance from me & Skye could have pushed us up even further. Ahhh if only!
On the other hand Rip's teammates did not fare well in this course. I saw Reo take the #14 triple after the #6 jump, so E for them. I didnt see Mischief's run, but she also earned up the 'E'. Surprisingly the two Es only moved our team placement marginally, and we ended up in 122nd place of 170. Not great, but not really near the bottom. Rip had the strongest performance on his team with no E's!
In the woulda-coulda-shoulda scenario for Rip's team - if the other 2 dogs performed exactly the same as Rip did, we would have ended up in 57th place.
Here's Rip's runs:
In summary I would say our first USDAA Nationals was a successful event. I was not too nervous and I think my dogs ran really well.
Rip and Skye both hit every single contact! Other than Gamblers, they had perfect weave performances, and both dogs only knocked 1 bar (Rip knocked the start bar for snooker but it didnt count for anything :)
Next year, USDAA Nationals is right near home in Denver, outdoors in October. This can be risky - it could easily be cold with some snow, but I am planning on attending and deal with what nature brings us!