The “off season”

After USDAA Nationals last October, I tried something different with my training/trialing plans.  I described it in a previous post titled “Deep Thoughts” http://wp.me/plxyX-dy.

Essentially, the idea is that I split up my year into two seasons, both of which ultimately lead to a key event….likely a National of some sort.  Those seasons are divided into thirds with the first portion devoted to rest, reflection, rebuilding, and retraining.  The second portion is devoted to experimentation, ie. let’s see how well these new things hold up in a trial setting.  The third and last portion is then time to execute which leads up to the key event.  The hope is for those last several weeks to have very solid runs where the focus is on outcome goals….to Q, to win, etc.

This schedule worked VERY well for me and Rue.  It allowed us to have fun and play with some things initially without any pressure, but then when it came time to get it done we were a very solid team.  We ended our season with the USDAA Regional in Palmyra, PA.  Rue had an incredible showing there as I talked about in my previous post.  Yet, even with a stellar run in PSJ Finals, we ended up missing the qualifying cut-off by .02 seconds.  Rue can definitely give me .02 seconds……heck, she could probably give me a full second or two.  At this point, Rue’s advantages are her running contacts and her tight turns.  Where I think we need more speed are in straight lines (ie, more extension work), especially off the line.  A reliable and stress free start line stay has to be made a priority.  If I could get out ahead, even a little bit, I think I could get more extension from her off the line.  The other main things for Rue and I are more independent contacts and faster/more independent weave poles.  Our goal trial now is USDAA Nationals at the end of September in Denver, CO.  Rue doesn’t have any trials lined up for the summer except for SE Regionals in Perry, GA in a month, a local USDAA trial in July, and possibly NC Regionals in Crystal Lake, IL in August.  So we can really focus on our retraining without any pressure of trialing 🙂

So for this phase, in the next 6 weeks, I need to figure out what I will do about her start lines.  Right now, I can get maybe one a weekend while trialing.  I’ll probably need to invest in going to run throughs and group classes fairly regularly to really train this properly.  I can also try simulating that pressure by setting up a short jump sequence in a public park.  For her weave poles, I am going to go back to the channel work we started last fall and continue to progress.  Unfortunately, my channels are 20″ spacing so that doesn’t really help much once I start closing them up.  I borrowed a friend’s 24″ channels for a long time, but didn’t take full advantage and now they’ve been returned.  Silly me.  I may need to put those on a to be purchased list.  Anyone want 20″ channels??? 😉  I just signed Rue up for Silvia Trkman’s Running Contact online course.  Rue was taught with Silvia’s method back in the dark ages, but she has since evolved her approach to teaching them a bit and I’ve also found that while I may not have needed reliable turns before, I certainly need them now!  Her class starts on May 21st!  Lastly, for extension work I’m doing big jump grids/race to-from tunnel type stuff.  I’ll also work on general conditioning with a focus on speed….so restrained recalls, hill retrieves, etc.  Here’s what we did yesterday:

I also think this method of training/trialing can be a very good thing for me and Miles, but as I’ve mentioned, something else has been lacking and I didn’t quite see the same results last season that I saw with Rue.  Be that trust in his training, be that fear of injury, be that I never fully let go of expectations with him.  Or maybe it was that I let go of taking him to Reno, so never really had a “goal trial” for him.  Not sure, but figuring that out is a definite priority.  Our focus right now is Golden Retriever Nationals at the beginning of September.  I’m on the fence about Cynosport with him.  Last year was very disappointing and our performance at the Palmyra Regional was eerily similar to what happened at Cyno.  In Palmyra, he had a really nice PGP Rd 1 run…..except for an up-contact call on the DW.  We also had a really nice run going in PSJ Rd 1 until I sent him off course.  These same two errors kept us from moving out of Quarterfinals last year at Nationals.  Add that to the stress of getting two dogs to Denver….just not sure it’s worth it.  On the flip side, I feel like I’m giving up on Miles and that feels awful.  I chose to not take him to Reno and now I probably won’t take him to Denver.  He’s a great dog…why do I feel this way??  The good news is, I have time still to figure out my answer.  And, we also have GR Nats to look forward to.  I’ve never been to our breed National before…should be a blast!  The site looks and sounds beautiful (Purina Farms outside of St. Louis, MO) and the judges are great, yay!  Miles and I will also be doing some solo trialing this summer, which will be good for us I think 🙂

So here’s what I have lined up for me and Miles in the next 6-7 weeks:

1)  Become more of a team again.  I will spend more time reflecting on what we’ve accomplished together and go forward in *full faith* with the skills that we have as a team.  I will go to the line with him focusing on how *athletic* he is and on how *fast* he is.  I will *be excited* to run him, no matter what the outcome.  I will stay *in the moment*.

2)  Revisit our up-contacts.  Perhaps through Silvia’s course, I will get some fresh ideas for this.

3)  Go out of my comfort zone and really push him on course.

Miles and I played around a little bit yesterday too.  We set up and ran the Team Jumpers course from IFCS World Championships which is going on this weekend in Texas…go USA!!  I thought he did remarkably well on this course and NO BARS, yeehaw!  We also did some extension grid stuff like I did with Rue because he likes it and it certainly can’t hurt for him to be more stretched out in straight lines.  It’s also great speed/sprint conditioning.  Miles doesn’t do the dynamic ball work that Rue does outside, we do a more moderate version indoors with more controlled movements.  I found he has a tendency to be a bit too insane with the dynamic work and gets himself injured.  Here’s what we did yesterday:

Thanks for reading!

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Home sick, hello blog!

A friend recently encouraged me to get back into writing my blog.  I find that I end up posting so many things to Facebook, that I don’t even think about my blog.  However, when I looked back at “recent” blog posts, I realize just how helpful it is to me to see what was going on.  The purpose of this blog has always been more of a record keeping journal….data collection….stream of consciousness type of thing. So anyway, here we are.

Last time I visited, I spoke about my back injury.  Ugh, that was a LONG road.  I ended up leaving the chiropractor I had been seeing and went to physical therapy.  I spent about 6 weeks in PT with twice weekly visits while also continuing to see my massage therapist about every 3 weeks.  Finally, I got strong enough to be discharged from PT and found a wonderful personal trainer who I’ve been with now since the beginning of January.  I see him once a week on Wednesdays after work and boy does he push me!  I also found a new, wonderful, chiropractor who I see once a month and still see my massage therapist with the same frequency. I finally am feeling like I’m getting stronger…and faster.  Since my injury was born from running distance, that’s been the slowest activity to recover.  However, I’m now comfortably running 5 miles twice a week….a far cry from what I used to do, but at least I’m running!  I plan to add another day of running in soon and see how I do.  And now when you see me at trials, I’ll have an agility ladder, lateral resistance bands, and a foam roller….all to help with good warm up/cool down.  One thing I learned through all of this…I ain’t gettin’ ANY younger, sigh.

And now to the dogs 🙂  Both are healthy and crazy as ever.  Miles’ little back thing in October was pretty short-lived and he’s been back to his regular activities since November.  After a long period of internal debate, I decided to NOT take him to Reno, NV for AKC Nationals.  It was a very difficult decision for me, but ultimately I felt that the stress and cost of the travel was too much for an event that I wasn’t sure I cared enough about.  His performance at the NAC in 2011 was stellar, but something told me that it wasn’t worth it to go this year.  So I chose to focus on local AKC to get him qualified for Tulsa in 2013 🙂  Yet, poor buddy….I’m not totally sure what has happened to us as a team, but we’ve been out of sync much more than we’ve been in sync which is not helping me mentally.  I’m starting to lose faith with him as a partner and don’t look forward to my runs with him as much as I know I should.  I desperately need to fix this, but I’m really not sure how I can.  He is a stellar dog and he deserves for me to be 100% for him.  We are so connected mentally that I know he’s feeling some of this as well.  I’m seriously considering a mental game coach at this point.  But, on the positive side I’ll share videos from two trials in the past few months where I felt we were really connected.  I watch these often to try to channel the emotions.

Here he is at BRAC USDAA in December.  Miles was teamed with Tracy Hirsch and her BC, Pilot.  Miles and Pilot ran great together and ended up taking gold.  Miles actually got the Top Dog award too!  He also played in PSJ and PGP.  He came in 2nd in both rounds of PSJ and missed the second to last jump in PGP.  BUT, this was the first trial that I’ve seen him hit ALL of his up contacts, woohoo!

And then there was the AKC trial in Chatham, VA in mid-March.  Again, just felt really in sync with him.  I had some errors, but Miles was brilliant.  No bars all weekend and he placed 1st in all Standard classes.  On Sunday, he had his fastest yps Standard run ever at 5.05yps earning 32 points!  Miles also earned his 2nd QQ for Tulsa at this show.

Onto lil’ Rue.  WOW, is all I can say.  Something has kicked in with this girl and we are having the time of our lives out there.  Between November and January, Rue finished her qualifications for USDAA Nationals in short order, including a win in PSJ Round 2 at BRAC (Miles took 2nd due to a bar) as well as a PGP win at CPA in January to earn a Regional Bye!  Rue also teamed with Tracy/Pilot at the January CPA trial and their team took bronze.  Also, since January, Rue has earned 9 QQs, her MACH, qualified for 2013 AKC Nationals, and earned her way into the ADHF with 3 double placements!!  She is on a roll and I don’t believe it’s ending anytime soon!  Not only has she been consistent, but dang she’s gotten SO fast.  I know she still has more in her too so I’m very excited for our future.  In February I decided to try entering Rue at 24″ in AKC.  She’d been practicing at this height for over a year and was very comfortable with it.  I am quite pleased with the results of her at 24″ and time will tell if I keep her there for a while or if I move her back down.  She’s certainly faster at 20″, but she is still turning in yps over 5 in JWW and over 4 in Standard at 24″ which have been our goals.  Granted I believe Rue could certainly go faster and should be closer to 6yps in JWW and 5yps in Standard, but that will come in time I’m quite certain.  I could post a zillion videos of hers, but I’ll limit it to her MACH video and her runs from the Palmyra (Mid-Atlantic) Regional.

Her MACH came over the weekend of AKC Nationals in Reno.  Didn’t I say that *something* told me Reno wasn’t the best idea????  I think this was the way it was supposed to be.  Not to mention, I found FIVE 4-leaf clovers on one walk during the week preceding her MACH.  I had found two of these in my entire lifetime before that walk.  How weird.  Anyway, here’s her video.  Not her fastest runs, but I think this was one of the only times I’ve ever felt pressure to “go clean” with Rue.  I tell ya, I don’t like that feeling.  But, we got it done 🙂

And now for the Regional.  Rue competed in PVP Pairs with Mardi Closson and her young boy, Screech. This was a “just for fun” team and despite Screech E’ing in Standard, me scratching Rue from Jumpers and Screech only getting 1 point in Snooker, our team finished only 2 spots below the Q cutoff!! On Day 1, Rue flew through Gamblers and earned a shocking total of 69 points for a Q and 2nd place (for comparison, I ran Miles on the same course and only got 49 points…she was flying). Rue also went clean in Standard and was one spot out of the Q. I pulled her from team Jumpers b/c it was a terrible course for her. Amazingly, Screech pulled out a 2nd place finish on that course…wow. On Day 2, Rue flew through Snooker with a respectable 43 point finish and a 5th place Q. Rue and Screech then got to run Relay and finished 6th out of 31 teams!!

Also on Saturday, Rue competed in Round 1 of PGP and PSJ. I am pleased to say that she was clean and fast in both earning a 4th place Q in PGP and an 11th
place Q in PSJ to move on to Round 2/Finals in both events. Rue was the ONLY non-Border Collie in the finals!!!

Sunday was Rue’s time to shine. The courses we got for finals were very very friendly for her skill set and running contacts. I had full faith in our team
and in her. Stepping to the line with her in PGP Finals was such an honor. She was SOOOO fired up. I attempted to do a short lead out, but she was having
nothing to do with that. I remember saying “oh God” as we both shot off the line….off to the races! What I planned to do after the DW didn’t exactly
happen, but somehow a combination of ninja moves and Rue’s brilliance, she got into the correct tunnel hole. We lost a bit of time b/c I was shell shocked at
what just happened and then ran the wrong side of the next line forcing a rear at the chute. She still finished 9th out of 19 dogs and got a freaking Bye to
Semi-finals at this years Nationals!!! OMG, wow. Only non-BC to compete in Rd 2 and she beat more than half of them with a messy run??? I’ll take it!

Our last (and 8th) run of the weekend was PSJ Finals. Again, Rue was really over the top fired up. She really feeds off the energy at these big events and
it is so fun to see. It was so cool to be the first team to run our jump height (we were seeded last going into finals). Holy poo, she ran like the darn wind
and put in a time of 28.44. I watched team after team E or get faults and Rue hung on for a long time in the top 5. However, two really fast BC’s ran at the
end including Paulena Simpson’s dog, F5 Tornado, and those dogs shot the qualifying time down to 28.42. OMG, we missed the cut off by .02 seconds??? No
PJS Semi finals Bye for my girl at this show, but holy cow…. .02 seconds???  What is that, a fraction of a sneeze?? She finished 6th in a sea of fast BC’s,
my little Golden Retriever. SOOOO proud, so proud.

Here is part of her run from PSJ Semi-finals.  It cuts off the beginning of 3 jumps, aframe, jump.  Rue squeaked into Finals based on this run and was the only non-BC to do so!

That’s about the best recap I can give of the last 6 months.  There are plenty of other videos to watch on my YouTube site (tailsofgold).  I’ll be back later to discuss our next set of training goals.  Now that we’re past our “goal” trial for the spring, there is lots to do to get ready for Cynosport in September!!!

Happy training!