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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